Consciousness, The Self and Meditation

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Source: Casnocha

For many thousands of years, philosophers of all kind have dwelled on the question of reality and nature of consciousness and yet not found a satisfactory answer. Understanding consciousness has been fundamental to understanding mankind’s purpose of existence and its actions.

One question that is abstract and intriguing both to the ordinary and extraordinary minds from time immemorial is – “Who Am I?”. This question provokes our consciousness to look within ourselves and understand the reality of the self. But then, where is consciousness? Is it in the mind? In the neurons? Or in our DNA?

It is essential to understand the nature of consciousness to look inward and realize the enormous complexity of our human body, and its purpose of living. Brain scientists believe that consciousness is an interaction of minds within our brain that becomes aware of the self. But then, neurons are just cells. Each cell has DNA, the blueprint for our character. DNA contains codes that determine what we are, and why we do what we do.

But, science can only go to the extent of unraveling mystery of the physical body. There is deep within our body, beyond DNA and neurons, there is something that makes us all unique. Beyond the mind and the body, there is knowledge of the unknown – a transcendental intellect which defines us. It is eternal that is within us, whose existence is elusive for the outwardly conscious souls like most of us.

Our understanding of consciousness is rudimentary and external. For example, when we wake up from sleep, we become aware of the day ahead. What we do is get ready to face the world, but seldom ask ourselves – what was I doing in my sleep? Why I was unaware of the external world when I was asleep?

Another example, when we burn our hand, we scream in pain. Our consciousness is concentrated on external forces such as the cause of the burn, our reaction to the burn, etc; but not to the pain body enduring underneath the skin or the efforts by cells to heal the wound.

It is only when we start realizing the force within us, we liberate ourselves from external pains. Deep meditation is one way through which consciousness can be directed towards understanding nature of our body and soul, thus reach ultimate happiness.

Recently, a Buddhist Monk was declared the happiest man in the world. A French Molecular biologist, Matthieu Ricard, renounced the material life and became disciple of Dalai Lama, accepting Buddhism as his religion. While meditating, his brain recorded highest capacity for happiness which was recorded by  256 sensors wired to his skull.  He revealed that, when he meditated on compassion, he experienced this abnormal happiness. Pure ecstasy.

In the third chapter of Taittireeya Upanishad, Bhrigu, son of Varuna seeks from his father the knowledge of Brahman, the creator of the Universe.  Varuna, answers that the food we eat, the matter we see, hear, feel, and  the mind, speech all arise from Brahman, and only they are the reality. He asks his son to undergo penance to realize these truths. Earlier penance was nothing but deep meditation renouncing worldly things in pursuit of the ultimate knowledge.

Bhrigu, in series of penances goes on realizing the existence of five Koshas, or the sheaths of consciousness in his body. He first realizes the Annamaya Purusha, or the physical self. Then goes on to realize: Pranamaya Purusha, the vital force; Manomaya Purusha, the mind; Vijnanamaya Purusha, the realm of pure idea; and ultimately, the Anandamaya Purusha, blissful being of the self.

When he realizes Ananda, pure bliss, he understands that to be the Brahman -the eternal being within us. In this sheath of Anandamaya Kosha, lives Sat-Chit-Ananda, the Brhman. Thus says Taittireeya Upanishad.

Consciousness is difficult to comprehend, but with practice and training our mind, even worldly beings like us can achieve that ultimate bliss through deep meditation and then understand the reality of the self.

  • A well carved insight to spirituality.. Even Swami Vivekananda had reached that Pure Ecstasy and wanted to be in that state.. But binded for his Guru’s words and his love for motherland.. He decided to enlighten India.. Yes.. I believe the entire Universe is Brahman. We are all connected…

    Got to know more about Spirituality from this post 🙂

  • Thank you very much Mamatha 🙂 Yup, we are all connected, it takes deep understanding of ourselves to realize this beautiful truth.

  • Hi Vinay,

    It’s great to be at your blog.

    I really enjoyed your post and it was good to read your thoughts on consciousness and meditation.

    I am a regular meditator and I have to admit meditating on compassion is absolutely amazing. It has the potential to literally transform our perspective of ourselves and of others.

    Thank you.

  • Hello Hiten,

    It’s my pleasure to see you comment on my blog. Thanks for liking this post and leaving behind your thoughts.

    It is true and also proven that meditating on compassion gives so much joy. I think, even showing compassion to fellow beings, and also to all animals gives us happiness and sense of fulfillment in our day to day life.

    It is great to know how you are helping lot of people to overcome their difficulties. This must be giving you lot of joy too 🙂

    Thanks again,


  • Hi Vinay,

    You are so right! Yes, as you say, even showing compassion to other people and animals is truely fulfilling. Ut is an aspect of real living!

    Yes, helping people who stammer really does give me a lot of joy! 🙂

  • And in addition to that, ten thousand years of civilizations and we are still here, pondering the same question: Why we are here?

    Some forget the question, some never dare to ask the question, and some keep asking the question yet haven’t found the answer.

    Subhan Zein

  • @Subhan,

    This question about purpose of our existence can never be answered, we can only keep trying. Well, searching for an answer to this question is based on the premise that there is ‘purpose’ for our existence. The question is – Is there a purpose at all? For me it is just an accident that we are here – the transient nature of everything we do, or possess is the clue to understanding insignificance of our existence here. It is just better to live happily and peacefully as long as we are here. Ignorance is bliss. Isn’t it? 🙂


    From somewhere i got to know that vinay sir work for those person who cant afford classes.My father after selling the whole land povide me money .Sir if you can help me to enroled in prelims online test pls sir .I can’t afford 6000 fee sir i you pls reply me i will workhard and promise you that i will be in merit list .pls reply me pls sir my id [email protected]. thankyou