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 !!!


Who Am I?

The wisdom of the five sheaths (Pancha Kosha) in Advaita Vedanta demonstrates the illusory nature of individuality. We become aware of the fundamental unity of the Atman, the genuine self, when we strip away the layers of our physical, vital, mental, and intellectual coverings. The deep realisation of non-duality that results from this insight allows the individual self to transcend all logical distinctions and experience oneness with Supreme Consciousness which is the Absolute.



 The opening sentence of Taittiriya Upanishad, Section-2 is “Satyam jnanam anantam Brahman” which literarily means the knower of Brahman attains the Supreme.

Let us know about the five sheaths that surround our true essence, our true nature as described in the traditional Advaita Vedanta which uses a model to illustrate the successive layers of identification which obscure our real nature.

 Our true nature is covered by the sheaths~[SHEATHE means KOSHA in Sanskrit ] known as “Pancha kosha”` The Five Sheaths.

 According to Taittiriya Upanishad, our true essence is covered by these sheathes in the same way that a scabbard encloses the blade of sword. Self is hidden behind the mask of the personality.
The second chapter of Taittiriya Upanishad “BrahmanandaValli” teaches about the five sheathes. Concept of whole of this Five Sheaths model is highly symbolic and metaphorical.
Five sheaths are as follows: –
1) AnnaMaya Kosha
2) Prana Maya Kosha
3) ManoMaya Kosha
4) VijnaMaya Kosha
5) AnandaMaya Kosha

PICTURE: Courtesy: #Debashree

The First Layer: “AnnaMaya Kosha” (অন্নময়কোষ):

From food (food= anna) arise all the creatures, which live on earth, and through food alone do they live, and finally they return to the food in the end.

 The first layer, the grossest one with which we first identify ourselves as the body, is made up of food and known as “AnnaMaya Kosha” (অন্নময়কোষ). The body takes birth, grows old, dies and decays back into the food from which it was produced. This has nothing to do with the real “Self”. This body alone is not the “Self”.

The Second layer: “Prana Maya Kosha” (প্রানময়কোষ)

This is vital life force for which the body is animated, and actions are performed. This layer is made of “Prana” the breath which known as “Prana Maya Kosha”(প্রানময়কোষ). We are multilayered being, composed of physical body, subtle body, and causal body. The first mentioned sheath, the AnnaMaya Kosha is permeated by four Koshas.
The next layer the Second layer is “Prana Maya Kosha”. The AnnaMaya Kosha is the effect of Prana. Prana Maya Kosha controls AnnaMaya Kosha.

"Prana" is vital energy and invisible to us. It is like Electric Power ,which gives life to the machines and machines run, animates.  Same way this vital energy "Prana" animates us, the live bodies.  It runs the 1st layer the Physical body. This prana is external to further subtler energy which is Mind. The mind is so subtle and transparent, that  mind can reflect consciousness. 

Prana (Breath) is verily the life of beings and hence it is called the Universal life. It is matter of common knowledge that life becomes possible only so long as the vital energy keeps the different organs of the organism alive.
” Though this vital life force makes the body animated and actions are performed but this is not the “Real Self“. This Prana Maya Kosha separates life from death once the “Prana” leaves the body. This sheath is composed of five Pranas (prana, Udana, Vyana, Samana, Apana). These pranas have their own importance to operate The Body perfectly. Through practice of Pranayama (pranayama is breathing exercise, part of Yoga as described in the ancient texts) , we can transcend to the next layer “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ). But this is not the real Self.

The Third layer: – “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ)

This Self is embodied in the previous one (Prana) which is   the mental sheath consisting of the thinking mind.  This MIND (Manas” মন”) and the organs of perception is known as “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ). This is the sheath which limits us and blocks us to go beyond.

Pancha Koshas(FIVE SHEATHS) can be divided into the three bodies: These three bodies are the objects of experience in deep sleep, dream and waking conditions, respectively. It is the causal body that is experienced in deep sleep. The subtle body in dream and the physical body in waking condition.

Three bodies are as follows:–
A) The gross body “Sthula sarira”=(~ Sanskrit word) consists of first layer AnandaMaya Kosha.  
B) The Subtle body “Suksma sarira”( ~ Sanskrit word) consists of Pranayama Kosha., ManoMaya Kosha and VijnaMaya Kosha. Also known as Astral body.
C) The causal body “Karana sarira”(~ Sanskrit word) consists of AnandaMaya Kosha.

This Self is embodied in the previous one (Prana) which is   the mental sheath consisting of the thinking mind.  This MIND (Manas” মন”) and the organs of perception is known as “ManoMaya Kosha”(মনোময়কোষ). This is the sheath which limits us and blocks us to go beyond.
This Kosha is powerful because bondage and liberation depends on the mind. It pervades the Prana Maya Kosha.
Basically, this body is consisting of Mind through which we perceive the world via five agents (sense organs).Mind functions in three levels.
 1. Conscious mind
 2. Subconscious mind
 3. Unconscious mind.
All the above three minds are subsets of Universal mind.
Human being is stuck in this sheath as always people are abducted by the mind (monkey mind).
In the Patanjali yoga sutras 1.2 ” yoga is the stilling of modifications of mind’~”yogass chitta vritti nirodaha”.
When the fluctuations of mind are stilled, our true nature is revealed.  We have then enough clarity to perceive the Self beyond the mind. Through pranayama and pratyahara (mental withdrawal of senses) we can pervade to the next layer. But this is not the real Self.

The Fourth layer:- VijnaMaya Kosha (বিজ্ঞানময় কোষ)

Beyond Mind (Manas~ Sanskrit word) there are higher levels of mind responsible for discriminations recognizing the truth and the false fruit real or unreal. In silence it knows without needing to think. This is intellect (buddhi~ Sanskrit word). This intellectual sheath is known as “VijnaMaya Kosha”.

VijnaMaya Kosha (~Buddhi) Sheath of wisdom. This is part of subtle body. When subtle body is disciplined, the physical body also becomes very healthy and strong. The mind which is ruler of the subtle body gets flattened by worldly affections, attachments, desires etc. Through practice mind comes under control by this sheath.
This self is embodied in the previous one that is ManoMaya Kosha. But this is not the real Self.

 I AM (the Real Self) the witness of this sheath.

Mind is mostly engaged with the first layer which is nothing but the body, the false identity with ego. It has a shape, size, name, fame everything.  Very much visible to self, to inner self, outer self and to others of this samsara (সংসার).
• The unwavering peace we seek is realized by experiencing the unlimited and eternal Peace that is our True Identity. Though obscured by ignorance, it exists within us, waiting to be revealed. This experience is enlightenment—Self-realization. {Experience to be gained with the help of 4th layer}
Self-realization can be attained by mastering the mind. Just as only a clean, undistorted mirror can reflect our face as it truly is, only a one-pointed and tranquil mind can part the veils of ignorance to reveal and reflect the Self.
The effort to free the mind from the limitations of ignorance is a drama that has been repeated since time immemorial.
But if the mind leads one towards the VijnaMaya Kosha by pervading itself, then what will happen? 
Let’s look beyond the mind.
Beyond the mind (Manas), there are higher levels of mind responsible for discriminations, recognizing the truth and the false, real, or unreal. In silence it knows without needing to think which is intellect (Buddhi~বুদ্ধি). This intellectual sheath is known as “VijnaMaya Kosha “~sheath of wisdom.
According to Vedanta, the study of scriptures helps in realization of truth, when one is equipped with necessary fourfold discipline:-
1. Discrimination between real (Nitya নিত্য~ eternal) and unreal (Anitya অনিত্য~transitory).
2. Renunciation of the unreal (Viraga~বৈরাগ্য)
3. Six-fold qualities.
4. Longing for liberation (Moksha ~মোক্ষ প্রাপ্তি : to escape from the cycle of births and deaths)

The word “Self” is generally meant to “Atman” (soul). But the Sanskrit word is “Atman”, which cannot be translated.  This Atman is deathless, birthless, eternal and real for every individual.  It is the unchanging reality (sat ~সৎ) behind the changing body, sense organs, mind, and ego. It is Spirit, which is Pure Consciousness (চিত্) and is unaffected by time-space causality. It is infinite and it is ONE without the second.
As the unchanging reality in the individual is known as Atman, same way the unchanging reality in the Universe is known as “BRAHMAN”. Vedanta says This BRAHMAN and ATMAN are one and the same.
VijnaMaya Kosha consists of the intellect in conjunction with the five organs of knowledge (জ্ঞানেন্দ্রিয়).

The Fifth layer:-  “AnandaMaya Kosha”

This Self is embodied in the previous one. The self-consisting of Bliss and is filled by it. Here is the presence of most profound peace and silence when mind becomes no mind.  This is State of Bliss 
Let us recall the first sloka (1ST verse) of “Taittiriya Upanishad” second chapter which is known as “Brahmananda Valli”.
Quoting the sentence again: —

“Satyam jnanam anantam Brahman” which means “The knower of “BRAHMAN” attains the Supreme”.  BRAHMAN is Truth, knowledge, and Infinity, which is our own very Self, the Atman.  Brahman is not an object of knowledge.  It is always witnessing subject. (দ্রষ্টা~The Seer).
In the second chapter of Taittiriya Upanishad, there is the definition of “Human JOY”. One unit of Human Joy. Will write that in my next blog very shortly.

The Self is infinite. There is in fact no multiplicity or plurality in that ONE, Homogeneous Being, the Supreme Being and the Ultimate. Because of superimposition and our ignorance, we have forgotten our true nature.  It alone
exists as the illuminator. This “Atman” the Real “Self” in its glorious existence, reveals its own Sat-Chit nature which is Anandamaya. That is why this Sheath is referred to “Anandamaya Kosha”. Actually, this Five Sheath model as mentioned in Taittiriya Upanishad is just an idea for understanding the different levels of the Self. The eternal nature of Self is Bliss only.

Through identification of five layers or sheaths the Self is revealed.  This reveals that:-

Then who I AM?

☆☆ I am The Witness of these five sheaths.

Our true nature is beginning less, endless, non-dual, unbounded, ever free, pure, aware, Supreme Bliss. Due to ignorance known as Maya (Avidya), we pass through cycles of births and deaths and that is the cause of pain, sufferings, and miseries. Maya is compared as veil in Vedanta.
The ignorance of the real nature of the Self constitutes this causal body or the seed-body. It projects the appearance of the whole Universe through the subtle sheath.
This Anandamaya Kosha or the causal body is impersonal, formless, Universal, a blissful space usually identified within deep sleep (sushupti~সুসূপ্তি) ★★
★★The Mandukya Upanishad explains about 4 states of Atman. There is one state the 3rd state, known as deep sleep. The second state is known as dream state (    ). The first state is known as Awaking state.
4th state is known as Turiya.

We have to rise above these five sheaths to realize the identity with Pure Consciousness. So, we need to strip off all the layers one after the other, to take out the innermost essence of the Atman from all objects of perception. When the identification with the sheaths ceases, the self realizes the Infinite Being and gets liberated beyond death.

I am trying to project the concept through the figure drawn below: –

Notes: –

Maya (~ Sanskrit word): –

According to Vedanta, our real nature is divine, pure, perfect, eternal and free.  We do not have to become Brahman, because we are That. But Maya is the veil which covers our real nature. Maya is beginning less. Time arises only with Maya. It is unthinkable, indescribable (Anirvachaniya). The word illusion is often used as meaning of Maya, but scholars says it is improper. There is no equivalent word in English to mean it.
What is known to us, according to ancient sacred texts, that Maya disappears when we realize our true nature.

^^Atman & Brahman: –
According to Vedanta, the ultimate in us is ATMAN The ultimate in Cosmos is BRAHMAN. This is the Universal Reality. Total Substance is Brahman. The same substance, when conceived as the essence of particular being is Atman. The Universe has been manifested out of this Total Substance can be said as Brahman. This is Atman, the Self of the universe. This Brahman is without a prior or a posterior, without interior or exterior. This Atman is Brahman, the perceiver of everything.

Recommended readings:

  1. Back to the Truth: 5000 years of ADVAITA by Dennis Waite. **
  2. THE TEN PRINCIPAL UPANISHADS: Translated by Shree Purohit** Swami and W.B.Yeats
  3. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracharya: Translated by Swami Gambhirananda.**
  4. Commentary of ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami Krishnananda.
  5. Mandukya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  6. BRRihadAraNyaka Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  7. Aitareya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  8. ChAndogya Upanishad: By Swami GuruBhaktananda.
  9. EIGHT UPANISADS -VOL-1 with commentary of Sankaracharya, Translated by SWAMI GAMBHIRANANDA.
  10. THE TAITTIRIYA UPANISHAD: SHIKSHAVALLI-ANANDAVALLI-BHRIGUVALLI with Sri Shankara’s Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidanandera Saraswati.
  11. A-U-M Awakening to Reality: By Dennis Waite***
  12. Panchadasi: Swami Vidyaranya:
  13. Information available on internet.

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 incredibly 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

Thank you!