Section IV — Phenomenon of human consciousness (thinking behind the thinking)
There is no denying that from the times computers have entered our lives, we have become more connected, knowledgeable and productive. The question is, ‘is it really the computer or something else that is giving us the connectivity, knowledge and efficiency?’ It isnotthecomputer. It isthesoftwarewhichtellsthecomputer‘whattodo’, and the efficacy of the software depends on the intelligence of the software developer. Similarly, the human brain is only a processing unit. Mind is the software of the brain and consciousness is the software writer. Thus, the quality of human thinking and actions reflects the quality of one’s consciousness. A developed consciousness makes us think and act in the “We-Us-Our” mode, whereas an undeveloped consciousness makes us think and act in the “I-Me-My” mode.
The phenomenon of ’Consciousness’ has always intrigued man and like reality it has also been viewed in the idealistic and materialistic terms. For the idealist “consciousness” is something primordial, independent and the all-creating essence of existence, while for the materialists ‘consciousness’ is a function of the brain, the essence of which lies in the reflection and constructive-creative transformation of the world. Since, in ‘section — I’ the shortcomings of science in deciphering absolute reality and its related phenomenon have already been discussed, the same is not being discussed again. However, it would be important to mention that even in the West (the land of modern science) there are thinkers and scientists who hold views contrary to the popular materialistic perception of consciousness. Arthur J Deikman says “This naïve reductionism is all the more striking in the context of numerous reports from physicists indicating that the world is actually more like the one that the mystics describe than the one on which psychology and psycho-analysis are based. Contemporary scientists have ample evidence that the world of discrete objects is an illusion, a function of a particular scale of our perception and time sense. ……. The great mystics, like our great scientists, envisage the world being larger than our tenets, as transcending our traditional views. By not recognizing our defensiveness, and by permitting our vision to be narrowed so as to exclude the unfamiliar, we betray our integrity as psychiatrists, showing no more capacity for freedom from prejudice than persons totally ignorant of psycho-dynamics- perhaps less” [Diekman, 1979: p.192-194].
While Diekman urged the scientists to open up to the wisdom provided by mystics, John White and Joseph Campbell were much more forthcoming in their writings. John White said “Political action, social work, this ism, that ology, are all incomplete,
futile actions, unless accompanied by a new and elevated mode of awareness. In other words true revolution is revelation” [White, 1972: p.ix]. For Joseph Campbell “It is part of the Cartesian mode to think of consciousness as being something peculiar to the head and that the head is the organ originating consciousness. It isn’t. The head is an organ that inflects consciousness in a certain direction or to a certain set of purposes. But there is consciousness here in the body. The whole living world is informed by consciousness. I have a feeling that consciousness and energy are the same thing somehow” [Campbell, 1991: p.18].
In the Indian thought, consciousness is a unique datum that emerged in evolution with the appearance of the living cell. Prior to the evolution of the living cell the only datum revealed was of being or existence. Thus, the living cell has both the attributes — being (existence) and consciousness. And, with the emergence of man, this datum further developed a new dimension i.e. a dimension of awareness of the self (soul) and the awareness of the not-self, of the external environment. “It is from this stage onwards that man as subject becomes confronted with the problem of training of his consciousness to higher levels. This is the challenge that evolution poses to man, who is nature’s highest evolutionary product, to which nature has also given the organic capacity to undertake this task consciously and deliberately. No non-human species have to face this task of training their consciousness. Nature has built the necessary genetic mechanism in all of them for their consciousness to react to external situations for the purpose of organic satisfaction, organic survival, and numerical increase. Nature has provided this built-up mechanism in man also, but along with it, nature has also given man the capacity to rise above this genetic limitation. This is value called freedom — freedom to alter the environment and/or alter oneself” [Ranganathananda, 1987d: 474-474].
Consciousness is singular in nature and it connects the Supreme Being with man. At its one end rests the absolute powers of the Supreme Being and at the other end the animalistic instinct of organic survival, organic satisfaction and numerical increase in this material world. Depending on the level of consciousness from that one operates, the animal in him can become God and the God in him can become the animal. According to philosopher and seer Sri Aurobindo, man functions at four levels — physical, vital, mental and spiritual, and the quality of his consciousness is dependent on the level from which he functions. Below is given in tabular form the various levels at which man functions and the qualities of consciousness associated with each level
& Spiritual Plane of Existence
The Divine Consciousness (integral vision of all planes) — Existence (Pure Spirit), Conscious Force, Delight
Knowledge by Identity — Truth (object of knowledge sought created within)
Intuitions, Revelations (total object of knowledge
Light & Illumination (descent of knowledge without thought)
Silence of Mind (enabling better thought, greater
Mental Plane of
Ideas, Concepts, Rational Thinking, Logical, Pure Thoughts, Conscious Self-Conception
Input of Information, Storage, Understanding, Comprehension, Decision making
Vital Plane of Existence
Emotional Thoughts as Attitudes, Life Intelligence, Higher Emotions (incl. conduct, social norms, conscience)
Emotions, Feelings, Passions, Intense Human Relationships
Sensation of the Nerves (urge, desire, fear, seeks
Physical Plane of
Body Knowledge of How to Act, Primary Skills of Existence
Physical Urges and Sensations (pain, hunger, lust,
Origin of Physical Movement, Instinct for Survival
(Source: http://www.gurusoftware.com — compiled by Posner Roy)
The role of consciousness in human life is best understood by understanding the human psycho-physical organism. Using the ‘chariot imagery’ Katho Upanishad (text of ancient India) says: Consider the body as a chariot, the self as the rider in the chariot, buddhi (intellect) as the charioteer, manas (mind) as the reins, sense organs as horses, and the world of sense objects as the road on which the chariot has to move. Consider the self-united with the sense organs and mind as the enjoyer of the journey. One whose mind is not disciplined, his sense organs will be uncontrollable like wild horses that cannot be controlled by the charioteer. But, one who has a disciplined mind, his sense organs will be perfectly under control, like the disciplined horses are under the control of the charioteer. One, whose mind is not held together and is impure, will not attain that state of freedom, from his lower nature (desire, anger, attachment, greed and ego). But one who is mindful and pure in thoughts, he attains freedom from his lower nature. One who has an enlightened buddhi (intellect) as his charioteer, whose mind is like a tough and strong set of reins, he reaches the consummation of his journey in the supreme state of universality and fulfillment.
Chaos, conflict and crisis are an indication of an un-disciplined mind, and the only solution is to bring the mind under control i.e. change the quality of mind. The quality of mind can change only when an expansion of consciousness takes place. When man increases his inner awareness (consciousness), he not only benefits in terms of self-knowledge, but also gains increased knowledge and awareness of the forces, events and forms in the outer world [Aurobindo, 1990]. It leads to discovery, further discovery and finally to the ultimate truth. “Consciousness is intrinsic to the
grand cosmos, both at macroscopic as well as microscopic levels. Man, a creation on planet Earth happens to be a perfect microcosm of the macrocosm. Spirit-mind-brain consciousness interactions are at the microscopic levels analogous to consciousness interaction between Supreme Being (Universal Spirit) — Universal Mind — Physical Universe at the macrocosmic levels” [Satsangi, 2012].