East & West: Meeting the Twain for Coaches

Aug 2, 2019

The worldview of the western approach to the mind has been conditioned by the statement of Rene Descartes- ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Descartes reduced the human persona to a thinking machine and the human mind to cognition alone.

Sigmund Freud, 200 years later, proposed that thinking as a conscious function was a very small part of our mind in what he referred to as the conscious mind. Most of the scientific opinion today supports Freud’s theory that the unconscious mind impacts 80% of how we think, speak, and act. Freud made us conscious of the unconscious.

Carl Jung, Freud’s contemporary expanded upon as well as differed from his mentor in proposing that the unconscious mind is not merely the repository of negative experiences but also an extraordinarily powerful source of choice and support, and introduced the concept of the collective unconscious. 

In one form or another, Jung’s imprint is visible in subsequent work done on the psychological space of the human mind, be it in the humanistic theory of Maslow and others or in several applications such as Gestalt and NLP.

When we refer to eastern scriptures relating to Hinduism and Buddhism, some of them 5000 years old such as the Upanishads, it seems a small step to move from the collective unconscious of Jung to the collective conscious principle enunciated by these scriptures as the ultimate truth. Ironically, as different from today’s Hinduism with thousands of gods, the Upanishads do not even mention the name of god. 

Jung’s collective unconscious went beyond the individual unconscious mind of Freud in understanding instinct and dreams. Through its concepts such as archetypes, symbols, and personalities Jung looked at how people tend to think, speak, and act in a collective common stereotyped manner without even being consciously aware of that fact.

Jung said, “In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche, there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited

‘The inherited psychic common system’ that  Jung refers to is the expanded collective consciousness that eastern scriptures talk about. It is something that goes beyond the material body and mind stuff, and one that is embedded deep in our instinctual inherited memory. This is a concept easily accepted in the eastern idiom of reincarnation, which the western mind has problems even in understanding. 

Self actualization as articulated by Maslow, the Open Window of Johari, Trance processes in NLP and such other practically valuable psychological interventions offer far greater value when the concept of collective consciousness is understood.

In the Hindu Buddhist collective consciousness concept, we individually as microcosms, are identical holographic energy images of the macrocosm that is the universe. The invocation verse of one of the oldest Hindu scriptures, Isa Vasya Upanishad, says:

You are complete. The Universe (that you too are) is complete. You arise complete from that complete Universe. When your completeness has evolved from the Universal completeness, both are complete. 

The next verse goes on to say: Everything (in this Universe) is energy. 

Einstein walks back 5000 years.

Based on this fundamental principle that every element of this universe is an energy being, not merely a material mind body structure, a later scripture, Mandukya Upanishad defines our states of consciousness in four parts.

The first state of conscious awareness is that of the mind and body, as well as the senses.  In this state we are awake and active sensorily. We are mindful of what we think, say and act.  We’re not couch potatoes watching TV popping chips into our mouths, unconscious of what we’re doing. Typically, this state corresponds to the beta state of the brainwave pattern. We think as well as feel physically and emotionally. Mandukya Upanishad terms this as being the Awake state of awareness consciousness.

The second state of conscious awareness is beyond the mind and body, the psychic state that Jung refers to as collective unconsciousness. Mandukya Upanishad terms this as the Dream state of awareness consciousness. In this dream state, we experience only emotionally and not physically. For instance, if we have a nightmare of a tiger attacking us in our Dream state, we wake up terrified with no physical evidence of the attack. Typically, the Dream state corresponds to the alpha state of the brainwave pattern.

The third state of conscious awareness is beyond the mind and body, and also beyond the psychic state of Jungian collective unconsciousness. Mandukya Upanishad terms this as the Aware state of awareness consciousness. In common language we would call this the Deep Sleep state. Typically the Aware, Deep Sleep state corresponds to the theta and delta states of the brainwave pattern. 

Confusing as it may be to term Deep Sleep as an Aware state, what it means is that a part of our body, the energy body is awake and functioning well during Deep Sleep, and seeds of thought arise within our energy body. These seeds of thoughts rise to the surface and explode as full-blown thoughts when we’re awake. It is possible to manage and reframe these seeds of thought in the Aware state, which is impossible when they are fully formed in the Awake state.

Several meditation practices such as TM, Yoga, Zen, Vipassana etc. help us learn to manage and reframe these seeds of thought in the Aware state before they go out of control in the Awake state.

The Fourth state of conscious awareness is simply called the Fourth state by Mandukya Upanishad, and corresponds to the gamma brainwave pattern, which was discovered only two decades ago. This is a state of witnessing and disengagement. It is a state of acceptance and surrender to the universe. A state of choice, beyond a state of just being. 

In this state one is non judgmental, both objective and subjective in a connected yet detached witnessing mode, conditioned memories do not influence one’s mindset. 

This is the realm of the Master Coach. This is the state of mindlessness.  This is the state in which the coach is truly present and aware with unconditional positive regard, empathetic and generative, capable of creating transformation in the client’s mind.

The underlying probability principle of Quantum Physics as well as recent advances such as Membrane theory support many of the ancient wisdom of Hindu scriptures. They have powerful daily application in life if we choose to allow them to.

Ultimately, the question of ‘Who Am I’ loops back to ‘Who Do I Choose to Be’.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


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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