What is the relevance of the four states of consciousness? It is said that this world is a waking dream. What is the meaning of “waking dream”? What is does it mean when someone says Prajnanam Brahman, consciousness is the Self? These and other questions arise as the young Rama questions Sage Vasishtha.
chitta: individual consciousness
jiva: an individual, person, spark of the Divine Atma
jivadhatu: the jiva-element; the seed or light that keeps the body alive
prana: breath that is inhaled and exhaled; vital force, life-breath;
sushupti: deep sleep
turiya: fourth state of consciousness that transcends waking, dream and deep sleep states. The state where the individual self is united with the Universal self.
Question 145: Sir, what are waking and dream states and what is the distinction between the two?
Answer: Ramji, the state wherein the existence of objects is experienced for a long time, is called the waking state, and where the perception does not stay for long is called the dream state. The difference between the two states is of duration only. The nature of experience is the same in both the states.
Question 146: Sir, you mentioned three states of jivas – waking, dream and deep-sleep states. Kindly describe their characteristics.
Answer: Ramji, that which abiding in a body keeps the body alive is the jiva; it is called the seed or the light. It is also called jiva-element (jivadhatu). When the jivadhatu is in ideational state, it extends into the body and because of that, language and other functions come into effect and various objects are perceived through the senses. This is the waking state. Oblivion of the Atmic state due to ideation, and experience of a manifest world is called the waking state.
When the chitta-potency is withdrawn from the waking operation and is directed inward, illusions of a world arise in the body. This is called the dream state and its characteristic is that there is an experience of a universe due to oblivion of the Self, and this universe is accepted as real for a short duration after which it disappears.
Deep-sleep (sushupti) is that state where there is no ideation of the mind, sound or activity within, where the jiva-element is fixed inward in a pure state, where there is no movement of prana in the heart, and where the veins are saturated with a fluid because of which the movement of the gross prana through them is stopped, and the subtle prana moves evenly. When there is no trace of the worldly ideation, and the cognition is inert, that is the deep-sleep (sushupti) state. In this state, the cognition is merged in the self.
Just as cold is latent in ice, grease is latent in butter, so is cognition fixed in the self during the deep-sleep state. To remain deeply established in this state without reverting to the waking state, is called the turiya state which is of the nature of jnana (knowledge). The state when one is constantly aware of the Self or Atma, and participates in waking, dream and deep-sleep functions—without cognising them as true—and where one conceives oneself united with Atma, or as distinct from the gross body, is said to be the turiya state. A person at this state is said to be liberated (jivanmukta) even while he is engaged in the mundane functions. He is unaffected by waking, dream and deep-sleep states.
Ramji, there is no distinction between waking and dream states, except of conviction. Hence the waking universe is like a dream and you must have a strong faith like that. Faith in the reality of the universe is the cause of sufferings.
Wakefulness, dream, deep sleep and the “fourth” are the steps. They are known as Jagrath, Swapna, Sushupthi and Turiya in the Sastra. Jagrath means “being awake”, “exterior alertness”, or “outward vision”. The consciousness is gross, while in this stage and in dreams the impressions that impinge on the consciousness are reflections and images of the Truth. In the Sushupti or deep sleep stage, the individual is not conscious at all; he is just a witness, who acknowledges later. (after awakening) that he slept well. The consciousness is not aware of itself. It is pure unaffected Prajna or Awareness. It has no contact with the objective world or the senses, outer and inner. It is pure Brahman Consciousness,”Prajnaana Brahman”. The last stage is Turiya. It is the stage when the consciousness is fully aware of itself. It cannot be identified as such by any means! We can try to delineate it a little, by saying that it is the silence that prevails after one OM and before another OM follows it.
These four stages of Pranava are associated with the deities Vishnu, Brahma, Rudra and the Paramatma. Vishnu means that which is omnipresent The visible universe is suffused with beauty and beauty is God. Since the Universe is the Body of God, the Supreme Person, Vishnu is also described in the scriptures as “He who delights in decoration” (Alankara Priyo Vishnu). The material Universe is saturated in harmony, law and symmetry and is therefore charming and fascinating. Through this attraction, the external world, the Universe, draws man into various paths and exertions. The five elements, the five senses, the five vital airs and other phenomena teach man various lessons to mould his nature. So the objective world can be taken as his Guru. Vishnu is the deity who fosters and feeds, who moulds and masters. Moreover, He is the guardian of the Cosmos, the Jagadrakshaka. The scriptures teach man to sanctify the waking hours – Jaagrath stage – for they belong to Vishnu, and are charged with the Vishnu principle. They exhort man to avoid wicked deeds, polluting thoughts, and all types of errors and failings.
During the dream stage we can experience holiness and bliss only when we engage ourselves, while awake, in steady pure unselfish activities. In dreams, we see diverse objects and persons, strange worlds, of skyscrapers and castles. From where did these emerge? Through whom were they presented? “Prajnanam Brahman”, the Supreme Consciousness is the basis for the creation of this variety of dream appearances. Brahma is the deity that creates. So the dream state is the Brahma phase of consciousness.
Then the deep sleep stage. Here the experiences gained during the waking hours or gone through in dreams do not impinge on man. They have all been extinguished. Rudra, the deity into whom the Cosmos ultimately merges, is therefore associated with the Sushupti phase.
Next, we have the Turiya or the Fourth Stage, the stage of Atma Consciousness. When the salt doll is dropped in the sea, it reaches the bottom and is dissolved. The same happens to the seeker of the Atma. He is dissolved. He becomes one with that which he sought to know. He cannot return and describe the experience.
“The A of OM is the Viswa; the U is Tejas; the M is Prajna” – this is another interpretation in the scriptures. Viswa is the Waking. Tejas the Dream. Prajna, the Deep sleep stage. The Pranava Sadhana (The spiritual exercise of meditation on OM) is therefore very important for seekers. The Vedas prescribe the repetition of the Pranava while studying holy texts, reciting the Name of the Divine, carrying out daily duties and offering gifts.
The Pranava is the essence of all sustenance, the embodiment of Rasa. Of all creation, moving and un-moving the Earth is the Rasa; of the Earth, water is the Rasa; of the Water, Physic (Oshadhi) is the Rasa; of the physic, the Human Person is the Rasa; of the Human Person, the word is the Rasa; of the word, Rk is the Rasa, of the Rk, Saama is the Rasa; of the Saama (Veda) OM is the Rasa. These eight Rasas, the Earth, Water, Physic, Person, Word, Rk, Saama and OM lead to the ninth, Ananda (Bliss). These are the Navarasas, the Nine Essences, the Nine Sustainers. Ananda is the goal which man is seeking, the aim of human life. Prasanthi Nilayam: 5-4-1981