Consciousness, The Self and Meditation
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.