Mindless: The Fourth State of Awareness

Ram Ramanathan  •  Oct 21, 2021  •  5 min read

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Mindless: The Fourth State of Awareness

Awareness is an attribute while Consciousness is not; one can be conscious of being aware, but not aware of consciousness. Collective Consciousness is the totality of consciousness, beyond all–being as well as not-being. 

-Ram Ramanathan, deliberately misquoting Nisargadatta Maharaj’s English Translation

In awareness and consciousness, I deliberately interpret this famous quote from a self-realized master, Nisargadatta Maharaj. I truly believe that his expressions originally in Marathi, may have been wrongly translated. 

In Sanskrit, the word Pragya denotes awareness, and Chit denotes consciousness. In all spiritual literature, Chit rules above Pragya, consciousness above awareness. It would have been impossible for a realized person such as Nisargadatta to have misinterpreted this.

The Mandukya Upanishad is the go-to scripture of the levels of awareness moving into consciousness. It starts with the mindful awareness of the body, senses, and the mind at the individual level, and moves up three levels through subtle energy awareness, causal awareness, and finally disengaged collective conscious awareness. These are the four states as described in the Mandukya Upanishad.

Four quadrants with the four states of awareness

Mindful Awareness

Mindful Awareness is the individual awareness of what our body and mind sense, retain and remember. This is the minimum level of awareness we need to function. In this state we are aware of what we see, hear, touch, feel and smell. We often remember and retain these memories, at least for a while. Though some say only 30% of what we sense is retained, with practice and awareness one can increase this. Unfortunately, this is a basic skill we oftentimes lose in pursuit of wants of wealth, power, and enjoyment, which provide instant gratification without awareness.

The process underlying this is complex, involving neurobiological, psychological, and psychical processes handled by our mind with tremendous ease and speed. I use the word mind rather than the brain because the intelligence system involved in this data processing, storage, and retention is spread throughout our cellular system and not confined to our neural network in the brain.

Dream State Awareness

Dream State Awareness is akin to the subconscious awareness states described by Freud and Jung. As different from Mindful Awareness, which happens at the beta level of the brain wave function, this higher-level awareness occurs at alpha brain wave level function. Meditation, deep relaxation, and REM sleep state initiate this level of awareness. 

At this level, sensing, remembering, and retaining are secondary, and may not always happen. What happens is a subtler level of deeper awareness that relaxes, nurtures, and heals. What we learn in these estates can be foundational and transformational. If you experience a nightmare, the emotions remain, though there is no physical evidence. The gross elements of sensation are not experienced, only the subtler elements of emotions and cognition.

Deep Sleep Awareness

Deep Sleep Awareness is akin to the pure unconscious state of Freudian Jungian awareness, in which there is no evidence of sensing, feeling, or cognition. These occur at even subtler and deeper levels on mind activity at theta and delta level brain wave functions. The body needs to be at rest and all of the non-autonomic mind systems as well. What is in action here is the autonomic nervous system alone, taking care of survival, deep healing, and rejuvenation. This happens with consistent practice of meditation techniques such as Vipassana and Yoga Nidra.

Mandukya Upanishad terms this state as Pragya, awareness, as a differentiated state from consciousness, which it leads to. In the first two levels of Mindful and Dream State Awareness, we are still in the individual consciousness level. However, at the Deep Sleep Awareness level, we can if we practise glimpsing the Collective Consciousness level of awareness.

Mindless Fourth State of Awareness

Mindless Fourth State of Awareness is awareness of consciousness of the highest order. This occurs at the gamma level of brain wave function. I speak from experience and willing to evidence this under controlled conditions. This state of awareness was studied and recorded by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University. There are several studies linking deep meditation with gamma waves.

This Fourth state of awareness, called Turiya in Mandukya Upanishad, simply the Fourth State, is a detached, disengaged, witnessing mode of consciousness, transcending the other three. This is the true “being” state where you just “are.” You are no longer an actor in the drama of your life, merely a witness. This is a state similar to the samadhi state in yoga, and the Nibbana state of Buddha. It is a state of acceptance, some say the state of complete surrender to the flow of the universe, in which all that prevails is acceptance, compassion, gratitude, and bliss. 

At Coacharya, we call this the Mindless State. Zen calls it the No Mind State. We help, learners willing, learn this process to achieve mastery in coaching presence, one in which the coach is absent in ego, and present only as a disengaged witness. Our logo of a zero atop infinity, symbolising a meditative yogi, represents the infinite energy potential we have when our body-mind is mindless.

Mindless state of Aware Collective Consciousness is an energy state experienced in the material body. The wave and particle co-exist in alignment with the Quantum Theory. 

It is possible to experience it. It’s impossible to teach, but possible to learn. Join us if you are brave. 

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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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  1. Hi Ram, I follow the explanation of this blog. As a practitioner of both yoga nidra, Vipassana and as a student of yoga vasistham, I have understood that Turiya is the state that one can reach through self enquiry process and might even take a lifetime to get there. It is also said that once you reach that state of operating (for lack of better word) , you remain there forever. There’s no going in and out of that stage. So, my question is then, what is that is aimed at as an outcome of this retreat for participants? Also, it would be helpful to understand the detailed agenda to learn what exactly will happen in those 3 days. Thank you for kind consideration of my questions.
    With metta,
    Sahana

    1. I go by my experience, not by what scriptures say using the principle of sravana manana nidhityasana. I do believe I reached Turiya. However, I don’t stay there. It may be possible for someone like Ramana or Ramakrishna, who gave up everything to be in that state. For someone who like me is a mere mortal with all attachments and aversions of the mind body, that state is transient. The invitation to join us is to create the awareness of the possibility of this state, not to attend any retreat and to stay in Turiya. As I mentioned we don’t teach. Those who wish to, can learn. cheers

  2. Hello Ram, good to read your blog on a complex subject and one you refer to often. I have a suggestion regarding the transcription in English of Prajña. ‘jñ’ is the closest equivalent to the Indo-European root – as in ‘jñana’ or ‘gnosis’, whereas transcribed as ‘pragya’ in your article, the nasal sound is missing. In the most appropriate translation I have read of my name: ‘Wisdom of the Yonder Shore’ I see Wisdom on the far shore or the other bank of the River of Knowledge, in other words, one has to go beyond knowledge, transcend it if you like – through intuition, insight (seeing within) and much more – to arrive there. I particularly like the depiction of the Mahayana deity, Prajñaparamita, holding the books, representing knowledge, lightly, almost casually, in one hand.

    1. Thanks Prajna, in line with your name, let’s go beyond the words into the spirit. Why worry about the spelling and the sound if you get the essence right? In any event I do not pose as an expert on Sanskrit, though I studied the language for many years. Please read the first word of Shankara in Bhaja Govindam ‘ oh, foolish mind, do not waste your twilight years in grammar’ cheers