What is Consciousness?: In the perspective of Vedanta


This part is in continuation of my first post on the topic “What is Consciousness: General Perspective.”. Readers are requested to read the first post to have a general idea on Consciousness.

All that is known is knowing. It is “knowing”, that knows knowing. All that is experienced now is Consciousness. How that “something” which is infinite take shapes in finite as experience? How does Consciousness appear to itself?  As multiplicity and diversity of the Self?  In an attempt to discuss this question,  an analogy,  imagine a scene of dream. Dream breaks, then what remains in mind?  What was in dream? Where is the scene seen? Seen by whom?          

In the study of Consciousness , there is a break through by Upanishads: NON-DUAL VEDANTA (ADVAITA VEDANTA). Let’s look into ancient insights for personal life, all the way back to 5000 years old . The whole purpose is about overcoming the human sufferings. That is the essence of Non-Dual Vedanta. It is not a Religion. It is not about mystical experiences too. It is about daily experiences like awaking , dreaming, deep sleep. Now let us apply some logical thoughts and investigate. Vedanta is an investigation to find out who or what we are? When we will realize that we are not limited to this body of flesh and blood, but we are immortal consciousness. It is a journey from not knowing to knowing. It is not against any faith, neither it is a religion. No rituals, no path. Simply reasoning. There are methodologies to understand, to establish logics. We may refer the text “DIG DRISHYA VIVEKA which has been written some 700 years back. Eminent author, scholar of that period, known as Vidyaranya Swami composed that Text. Please follow the explanations very carefully. Points to be noted are:

  • We see the world through eyes. Eyes are distinct from what it sees. Here, eyes are the seer.
  • I am aware of the eyes , that eyes are object. Mind is seer and eyes are now object. Eyes and mind are separate.

Let us think deeply. Mind is the observer of the body , because it observes through all sense organs. it is seer here. Let us  observe Mind now. Mind itself which constitutes our thoughts, feeling ,emotions , ideas are changing, which are never static. I am aware that whether,

  • I am happy or not.
  • I understand or do not understand.
  • I like or do not like.
  • I love or do not love.
  • I hate or do not hate.
  • I am angry or not angry.

All above are expressions of our mind. These are wave of thoughts. So, I am aware of all the changes in my mind. Therefore, I am the witness of the mind. Hence mind is seen by Me. Evidently , I am distinct from the MIND. I am not the mind, but witness of the mind. Seer and seen are different. I am that who illumines my MIND.


Now the logic is : I must not forget that “I”, the witness of the mind, whatever I am, I am distinct from the Mind. I am thus aware and conscious of the Mind, the variations in Mind. Generally, we identify ourselves most closely with our Minds. I am this person who thinks, feels has a personality (my personality-that i am proud of ” I AM “

But this person, this Mind is who I think “I AM” and here we are being told, if you are aware of the contents of your mind , then you cannot be the mind, “YOU ARE THAT”=> which is aware of the Mind, that which is witness of the Mind. This witness, this awareness is Consciousness.  Mind being observed by Consciousness. Therefore, we have first crossed bodily self to a sense of mental self and then finally to a sense of witness. Now I have become the witness of my Body and Mind.

Now that I am distinct from this Body and Mind . So, Who Am I? 

Answer is :–  I Am the Consciousness. I Am the Witness of the Body and Mind. This Consciousness Self, this pure Subject, is not an object. It cannot be known. I AM always Awareness, Consciousness, not something else.

” O Rama ! The world is nothing but a mere vibration of Consciousness in space. It seems to Exist even as a Goblin seems to exist in the eyes of the ignorant. All this is But Maya. For here there is no contradiction between the infinite Consciousness and the apparent existence of the Universe. It is like marvelous dream of a person who is awake”….  from “YOGA VASISTHA” as said to Lord Rama by the Sage Vasistha.”

The idea that Consciousness is not an object is fundamental insight going all the way back to the “Upanishads”. According to teachings of Upanishads, Consciousness is not an object. Whatever we are aware of is not Consciousness. What we see, hear, smell or taste ,or think of, or understand, or objectify in any manner, what so ever, none of  these is Consciousness. These are objects shinning in Consciousness.

What is Consciousness? 

Please listen to this Lyrics ” Nirvana Shatakam” a creation of Shree Adi Shankaracharya. 

Vedanta defines Consciousness very precisely. ” Neti, neti” Whatever we can be aware of , either directly through our senses or through our mind or thoughts, or indirectly through scientific instruments, all of these are objects.

That which is aware of all these objects is Consciousness. It is purely subjective. Consciousness is uniquely distinct from the objective Universe.

“NO MIND”  : What is it?

Now we will try to understand that mind is also object. Let us think this way. Look. Here is the world outside. I am aware of it. Now, I change my attention to the Body, then to the eyes. Yes, now I am aware of the eyes. Now changed my attention to the mind which is aware of the eyes. Then comes thoughts, feelings and emotions on what is seen. Now I am aware of my Mind which has experienced all the feelings so far. Let me push backwards to suppose that I drop the mind. ” NO MIND”  Mind becomes blank. Now there is blankness. Absence of thoughts. But I am aware of that too. That is an experience which is not common. Now think ” what is it that is aware of Blankness, that there is no thoughts in the mind. It is Consciousness which is illuminating up all our experiences, is non-objective. We call it ” Pure Consciousness” This pure does not mean any good or better. It is without any attribute. The main point is that “Pure Consciousness” is not mixed up with any object. This  “Pure Consciousness” is universal. Omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, indivisible, infinite, unbound so forth so on. 

Now, if I am this “Pure Consciousness”, distinct from body and mind, experiencing changes in body and mind, also experiencing external world through this body and mind, then in a sense, I am free from body and mind. That is my real Identity. That is what “I AM” Therefore, birth, ageing, diseases, death are changes in body and anger, jealousy ,sorrows, joy etc. are all fluctuations of mind are all objective part. I AM beyond these changing experiences. Because I experience it, it must be something different from me. The mind undergoes us and downs. Mind is the cause of our sufferings, pleasure and pain. The frustrations, the anxieties, the fear are all objects of my awareness. I am not these. I am ever free from them. Before they were there, I was there. When they appear, they shine in my light and when they disappear, I am still there, the same ever shining light of Consciousness. 

Upanishad says ” That shining, everything else shines, by its light everything is lit up.” 

Once we understand above, there will be great sense of freedom. Even the worst experience in the body, the worst experiences in the mind, which are objects and not attached to me, the consciousness illuminating the objects as experience.

What is experience?

According to Vedanta, consciousness working through the mind illuminating the body is a bodily experience. consciousness through illuminating the mind is an experience of the mind. Consciousness through the body and mind is an experience of the world outside. Therefore EXPERIENCE = CONSCIOUSNESS + OBJECT.

The world changes, body changes, mind changes, but they are all revealed by this one light of consciousness which I AM which is our real nature. So the non objective, pure subject, this is a very deep insight. Neuroscience or modern science or philosophy of mind can not define consciousness. Non Dual Vedanta means Consciousness is the ultimate reality. There is no second reality.

Now the question is that each of us is pure subject, awareness only, illumining the body and mind, then this awareness, this pure subject , how many of those are there? If there are millions of people out there, then millions of consciousness there?   Millions of people, Billions of other living creatures have millions or billions consciousness? No there is single one Consciousness. Here I will stick to Non Dual theory. Advaita Vedanta: Why do you think that there are many consciousness? It is true that we have different bodies, different minds, they are distinct bodies, distinct minds, but consider this pure consciousness which is not mixed with any object, not a body , not a mind, then how can we distinguish one consciousness from the other. That is why Advaita says there is one Consciousness. 

Example: 1) A Jar made of clay with lots of holes. Light inside. We see the light from all the holes. It appears that many lights coming out of the jar. But actually, there is one lamp flame which is shinning through many holes.

Bhagavad Gita says: Consciousness is one and undivided in all beings , but it appears to be divided, when shinning through many bodies and minds.           [  slokas: BG: Ch-13: 16-18.]

The article will continue….Final part will be published soon.

List of Books : Recommended For Interested Readers:

  1. Thought As a System: By DAVID BOHM 
  2. BIOCENTRISM:– How life and consciousness are the keys to Understanding the True Nature of The Universe: By Robert Lanza, MD with BOB BERMAN
  3. Beyond Biocentrism- Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness and the illusion of Death. By Robert Lanza, MD with BOB BERMAN
  4. Entangled Minds- Extra Sensory Experiences in A Quantum Reality. By DEAN RADIN.
  5. Expand Your Consciousness through DAVID K MILLER
  6. QUANTUM ENIGMA -Physics Encounter Consciousness: By Bruce Rosen Blum and Fred Kuttner.
  7. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite.**
  8. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit** Swami and W.B.Yeats
  9. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.**
  10. EIGHT UPANISADS -VOL-1 with commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by SWAMI GAMBHIRANANDA.
  11. A-U-M Awakening to Reality : By Dennis Waite***
  12. Panchadasi: Swami Vidyaranya: 
  13. Information available on internet.

Useful link: 

[Unified field of consciousness backed up by modern science (tmhome.com)] 

It is my sincere request to the esteemed readers to share their opinion or queries if any. Suggestions to make the site attractive will be highly helpful for me. Readers are requested to read all the posts to have continuation of the topic from the beginning. My mail ID is : arun7663@gmail.com

Please go through the following post for knowledge on Pure Consciousness. ” The Divine Art”

The Divine Art !!!