In the previous article, we understood what is Consciousness or Awareness and what is its inherent nature. It’s time now to talk about different stages of awareness or awakening which a person goes through before he finally realizes his true self. In Yoga there have been defined 7 states of consciousness which are as follows:
Deep sleep state of consciousness: The first question which will come to your mind after reading this is; Am I really aware or conscious in Deep Sleep? If you look deeper and analyze this statement, you will realize that the answer is YES. Let’s take an example, Let’s say you were in a deep sleep and suddenly some came to you and shouted that your house is on fire and you have to run away. Immediately in the midst of your deep sleep, you will get up and respond to that situation in whatever way possible. This means there was a certain level of awareness within you even while you were in sleep. Though the degree of awareness is very low but still a rudimentary form of consciousness is still there. There is another example with which particularly a woman who has been a mother can easily identify. If the mother is in deep sleep and her baby is hungry or not feeling well, the mother will suddenly wake up and check if the baby is fine. Mothers have that awareness even in deep sleep and she experientially knows whether the baby is well or not. That is the gift of nature to her. Similarly, we can take ‘n’ number of examples to verify this argument.
Dream state of consciousness: Again you will think, Am I aware while I am dreaming? And the answer is YES. The degree of awareness in the dream state is more than the degree of awareness in Deep Sleep. Let us say you are having a dream that you went on to a trekking expedition with your childhood friends, then you had a Bonn fire high up in the mountains, then you danced and had fun and the next day you came back after having a great time. Now while you are within the dream state, All of these experiences seem to be real in your experience. If I enter into your dream and say, Hey you, this is just a dream this is not real, I am sure you will start having an argument with me in the dream. This is because while you are within the dream, it seems more real than real. This is a direct proof that you have a certain degree of awareness within the dream state, that is the only reason you are able to experience the dream while you are in it. And almost everybody has had this experience in his or her life.
Waking state of consciousness: If I continue from where I left in the state 2, How do you know that what you were experiencing was a dream and not a reality? The answer is, Only when you wake up from the dream state. So when you suddenly wake up, you just have that Aha moment and you say, Oh, That was an interesting dream or that was a nightmare depending on what you experienced in that dream. So once you wake up from the dream state, then you enter the third state of consciousness which we call as the Waking state of consciousness. So presumably all of you who are reading this article right now, I am assuming that you are in Waking state of consciousness. But let me ask you one question which will kind of make you skeptical about the nature of waking state. How do you know that so-called waking state which you are in right now, is also not a dream? Can you firmly say that this waking state is not a dream? I think the answer as per your current experience is NO. If you will look deeper into this question, you will find that you are not 100 percent sure if this waking state is real or not, because when you were in a dream state, the experiences in dream state were equally real as they are in the waking state. So unless you transcend the waking state of consciousness and rise to a higher dimension of consciousness, you will never know whether this waking stage of consciousness is really real or is it just a dream.
Transcendental state of consciousness: When you wake up from the waking state and enter the 4th state of consciousness, then we call it the transcendental state of consciousness or awareness. The word transcendental literally means to ‘Go Beyond’. Which means once you go beyond the ambit of the body and mind (There are various methods in Yoga which leads you towards the experience of transcendence) and realize that there is something which is more fundamental to both of these two; that is the state of transcendence. As we looked deeply in the previous article that anything and everything which you do in your life, you know it only in terms of experience & knowing of that experience. And this knowing happens only because you have the inherent quality of being aware. So transcendental state of consciousness is that state where you experientially realize that you are not the body and mind, you are the one which gives rise to the experience of body and mind. Which means you experientially realize that you are pure awareness or pure consciousness. If we have to understand it with the help of an example, We can take Lake as the frame of reference. The ripples of the water are like our thought process within the mind which is constantly changing every moment. The very lake itself is like a human body. And what is holding the lake and the ripples is the base of the lake where everything is peaceful. So that base of the lake can be called as consciousness in this context. No matter how many times ripples are changing, the base of the lake remains unperturbed by it. Similarly, you might have experienced that your mind keeps on changing every moment, your body also gets changed over a period of time, but that conscious element which gives you the experience of body and mind is always the same in its quality. So when you experientially realize this awareness which is the source of your body-mind, then we call it realizing the self or self-realization. That’s why we call it transcendental state because for the first time in your life you experienced something which was beyond your five sense perceptions.
Cosmic consciousness: In the fourth state, we saw that for the first time in your life you realized that you are essentially awareness which is the fundamental domain of existence beyond Mind, body & Universe. When that experience becomes more obvious to you in all the other three states of consciousness which are deep sleep, dreaming and waking, then that is called as the cosmic consciousness. Let’s understand it like this way. Let’s say you are in deep sleep, but even in your deep sleep, you are experientially aware that it’s your body who is sleeping right now and your awareness is separate from the body. Similarly, when you are dreaming, then you experientially know that this is just a dream and not a reality. Which means, whenever your mind is dreaming, you as essential being, know that it is just a dream. And all this knowing is happening while you are still in the dream state. Similarly, while you are in waking state of consciousness, you are fully aware that you are not the body and mind, you are the awareness which gives you the experience of body and mind. In other words, the moment you enter this stage, this is the end of suffering because you have risen up to a stage where suffering can simply not exist. This is a state of blissfulness and ecstasy. All this is happening because you have experientially realized the possibility of who you really are.
Divine consciousness: In the 6th state, you not only realize the true being within you but you also start experiencing the same inherent being in the objects of your perception. Which means you experientially realize that the being which is there within you is the similar being which exists in somebody or something else. This somebody could be an animate or an inanimate object which you are perceiving. It could be a tree, animal, bird, insect, soil, water etc. Which means you have this full realization in your own experience that the quality of being within you and the quality of being which is there within something else is the same and everything contains that being as an inherent entity within themselves.
Infinity consciousness: In the 7th state, you realize that all those individual beings which you were experiencing in the innumerable objects of your perception, all of them are essentially the part of one single universal being or universal awareness. Or it wouldn’t be wrong to say that there is only one being and rest of the beings are just different manifestations of that universal consciousness. When you realize this experientially within your self, then that is traditionally referred to as Enlightenment. Which means you experientially know the ultimate nature of the existence. This is what we refer to as YOGA. This is also referred to as the highest form of knowing. A person who experiences this union within himself is referred to as a YOGI. Once you get enlightened, Blissfulness become your natural expression and it is said that you also get free from the cycles of birth and death because you have transcended yourself experientially to a higher dimension of existence where physical aspect of existence has no role to play.
Whatever I have mentioned as 7 stages of consciousness, these are not things made up by myself. This has been and still is the living experience of thousands of Yogi’s in India who chose the Yogic path and reached the highest level of realization. At the same time, I have no authority to force you to believe in it. If you are a real skeptic, then I want you to explore these dimensions through YOGA and Meditation and find this realization yourself as a living experience, because in our life we call something as real only when it becomes a part of our experience, rest everything is just a story doesn’t matter whether it’s a good one or a bad one.
Peace & Love!