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Stages of Consciousness

Published: 16.12.2008
Updated: 16.12.2008

The Daily Rising Kashmir

There are several stages of consciousness. The most material is the one connected with the sense organs. The next is a subtle one connected with the mind. The next is more subtle connected with the intellect. The next is still more subtle and is connected with Adhyavasaya (unconscious mind). Besides these there are several others which we have not yet been able to identify and define. We pass through all these and live through them.

The mind is a very subtle organ, and therefore, it is difficult to understand it. Dhyana is not primarily concerned with the sense organs. It is essentially a mental effort. It is not only a beneficial effort; it is also fraught with dangerous consequences. If the mind has not been trained methodically, meditation is likely to produce harmful consequences. Dhyana produces a special kind of heat in the body. The practitioner should take precaution in this connection, otherwise there is every possibility of his becoming insane. He has to proceed very slowly and step by step. He has to exercise the greatest care. For example, an hour's meditation requires a long preparation spread over a number of days. Even a two minute long meditation is difficult to achieve; it needs a long and patient practice. In spite of such a careful preparation, the practitioner often begins to waver. Concentration of the mind even for two complete minutes is no mean achievement.

The mind, by its very nature, is fickle and restless. Innumerable currents of thoughts and ideas flow in it ceaselessly. We are generally unconscious of them. We become conscious of them only when we begin to concentrate on them. They also produce setbacks in meditation.

There are three states of the mind from the point of view of meditation: Avadhana-attention, Dharana-Concentration and Dhyana-Meditation.

When the Sergeant gives the caution 'Attention', the soldiers put an end to the wanderings of their minds and become poised to do what they are going to be ordered to do.

Avadhana sometimes has as its object the internal world also. Prajna (insight) dawns upon the mind only when we have begun to be attentive to our basic nature, i.e., the self. In such a state attention turns inward, leaving the outside world to itself. We begin to attend to ourselves. This is a special state of the mind. Insight and consciousness begin to be operative only in this state.

The next state is that of Dharana (concentration). It implies the concentration of all the faculties of the mind on any object or part of the body. This state succeeds that of Avadhana and precedes that of Dhyana proper. Patanjali has defined it as a state in which the mind is tied to a particular area. A continued fixing of the mind on a particular object is a state of meditation.

As explained above, Avadhana is the first stage of meditation and the mind has got to be trained for it. Ordinarily it consists of fleeting states. Activity is, however, not the natural characteristic of the mind. It is easy to flow with the currents of the mind. There is no difficulty in doing so. The practitioner, on the other hand, has to swim against the current. Mahavira said, 'The whole world swims with the current. It is very difficult to swim against the current. To swim with the current is Samsara which means absence of peace and the experience of misery.' Swimming against the current means peace and stability. One who is capable of doing so can cross the river of Samsara.

Meditation means transplanting the mind into its natural state by withdrawing it from its unnatural state of restlessness and activity. It is a difficult attempt no doubt. There should be no misunderstanding on this point. I should like to warn you against the dangers involved in it. We should not deceive ourselves. Meditation is an implement of making the unconscious conscious or in other words, of awakening consciousness by removing the shadow of the unconscious from it. The purpose of meditation is to obliterate Pramada (self-negligence). That is why we have to be very careful, lest meditation should lapse into a state of trance. It is a long and continuous process and needs a lot of preparation and patience.

The Daily Rising Kashmir - by the efforts of Mr. Lalit Garg
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Adhyavasaya
  2. Avadhana
  3. Body
  4. Concentration
  5. Consciousness
  6. Dharana
  7. Dhyana
  8. Lalit Garg
  9. Meditation
  10. Patanjali
  11. Prajna
  12. Pramada
  13. Samsara
  14. The Daily Rising Kashmir
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