by Swami Krishnananda
In his exposition of the Mandukya Upanishad, Swami Sivananda gives the following account of the Jiva as constituted of certain states of consciousness (Principal Upanishads, vol. I, pp. 420-32):
The Jiva is the supreme consciousness appearing to undergo the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. Waking is the condition where the consciousness is associated with external objects having a pragmatic existence for the Jiva. The experiences of the waking individual are made possible by the operation of nineteen powers that form the subtle body within. The auditory, the tactile, the visual, the gustatory and the olfactory senses; the vocal, the prehensile, the locomotive, the generative and the excretory organs; the five vital breaths, called respectively the Prana or the central energy, Apana or the down-going energy, Vyana or the circulating energy, Udana or the up-going energy and Samana or the equalising energy; the four provinces of the psychological organ, viz. the mind, the intellect, the ego and the subconscious;—these together are the building-bricks, as it were, of individual experience. The distinguishing feature of the waking consciousness is that its contents are physical objects. The nineteen principles become for the Jiva the means of the enjoyment of objects, as well as of the suffering of mortal life. Swami Sivananda makes an opposite remark in regard to the waking condition of the Jiva: The Jagrat-Avastha or the wakeful state is the last in the evolution of the universe, but the first in the order of involution. The dreaming and the deep sleep states follow the wakeful one. This quarter (viz. the waking condition) is called the first with reference to experience, but not with reference to the order of evolution or creation. This is called the first, because all the other quarters are approached through this, and because from it the dream state and the deep sleep state are known. From a study of the waking state one will have to proceed to the study of dream and deep sleep. When we begin to analyse the universe for the sake of realising the Atman, we will have to deal with the wakeful state first, and understand the nature of the gross objects in the beginning. It is then that we can gradually enter the subtle and the causal nature of things (p. 422). The Jiva in the waking state goes by the names of Visva, Vijnanatma, Chidabhasa, Vyavaharika-Jiva, Karma-Purusha, etc.
Dream is the second quarter, where the Jiva is called the Taijasa, and where it is conscious of internal objects and works by means of similar nineteen avenues of knowledge and action. The objects of the dreaming consciousness are subtle in comparison with those of the waking state. The mind in dream creates various objects out of the impressions produced in it by the waking experiences. The mind can reproduce the whole of its waking life, through the force of Avidya, Kama and Karma. In the dream world the mind is the perceiver as well as the perceived. It creates objects without the help of any external means. It is the condition during which the Taijasa-Atman, in association with the mind laden with the residual impressions of waking life, experiences sound and the other objects, created merely out of the impressions, for the time being. Here the external senses are at rest, there is only a manifestation of the knower and the known with affinities to things enjoyed in the waking condition. The Visva, its normal actions having ceased, reaches the state of Taijasa, which moves in the middle of the subtle nerves near the throat, and illumines by its lustre the heterogeneity of the dream world. The dream phenomena are nothing but the states of the mind alone, though the Jiva here considers the externality of experience as real. The dream world is objective only to the dreamer.
That is the state of deep sleep wherein the Jiva does not desire any object, nor see any dream. This third quarter of the Jiva is termed Prajna, whose sphere is ignorance, in which all experiences become one, which enjoys bliss and provides a key to the knowledge of the other two states. Sound and the other objects of sense are not felt here due to the cessation of the objectifying function of the mind. Even the ego is here at rest. There is only Avidya or the veil of nescience. The Visva and the Taijasa enter a temporary condition of oneness in Prajna. An analysis of dreamless sleep leads us to the recognition of the existence of the Atman in all the three states. The remembrance of sleep, when one returns to the wakeful state, indicates that the witness of the three states is one. This witness is the Atman. The bliss of sleep, however, is not to be confused with the bliss of the Atman. As the mind is in a state of quiescence, due to the absence of desire and activity, it is wound up in sleep into an unconscious condition of absence of all pain and an unwitting proximity to the Absolute. Our impassioned craving for sleep, even if it may mean the rejection of all other pleasures of life, gives us an inkling of there being a positive bliss underlying it. As the state of sleep, though a negative one, is the causal condition of empirical life, a knowledge of the seeds of experience hidden in it would throw an immense light on the whole life of the individual, whose essential characters get temporarily dissolved in the body of Prajna.
As the soul in the state of waking, dream and sleep is called, respectively, Visva, Taijasa and Prajna, the Universal Soul animating the physical, the subtle and the causal universes is designated Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Isvara. The Virat, having entered the microcosmic gross body and having the Buddhi as its vehicle, reaches the state of Visva. Hiranyagarbha, having entered the microcosmic subtle body and having the Manas as its vehicle, reaches the state of Taijasa. Isvara, who is coupled with the Avyakta, having entered the microcosmic causal body and having Avidya as His vehicle, reaches the state of Prajna. In the macrocosm, Virat is the last manifestation of Isvara, while in the microcosm, Visva is to be considered the first manifestation of the Jiva. In a sense, the waking state of the Jiva forms a link between itself and the manifestations of Isvara. Hence in the waking state the Jiva is supposed to be at its best.
Fill a pot with the water of the sea, tie a rope to the neck of the pot, and immerse it in the sea. Though the water of the pot is one with the water of the sea, it appears to be separate on account of the limiting adjunct, viz. the pot. When the pot is drawn out by means of the rope, the water of the pot gets differentiated. But the ether, which is contained in the pot and is also outside it, forms a single homogeneous whole, and cannot be distinguished thus. Even so, the pot of the subtle body which is filled with the water of ignorance and to which is tied the rope of the impetus of past good and evil deeds, gets involved, in deep sleep, in a collective causal state, which is the adjunct of Isvara in the cosmic plane. With the individual ignorance, which is its own adjunct, the Jiva in dreamless sleep gets immersed in this vast sea of stillness. It appears to be discrete due to its containing in itself, potentially, the subtle body. When the Antaryamin, or the Inner Ruler, draws the rope of Karma, it gets differentiated, and comes back to the waking state. But the Atman remains a silent witness of the three states, as a support for the pot of the subtle body, which is the vehicle of individual ignorance.
The waking state may be compared to a big city, the dream state to the rampart or the walls of the fort of the city, deep sleep to the central palace within the city, and the Jiva to the king enthroned therein. The king comes out of his palace and moves about in the city, enjoys various objects and returns to his palace. The Jiva is subject to changes. It cannot be called the Witness-consciousness, because it dwindles in deep sleep. It is not real, for it is transcended in the Atman. It is only a reflection of Chaitanya in the Buddhi. The Atman is the real witness of the three states, even of the contingency of Jivahood. This witness-state is called the Turiya or the fourth state of consciousness.
It is said that, as sweetness, liquidity and coldness, which are characteristics of water, appear as inherent in the waves, and then also in the foam, of which the waves form the background; existence, consciousness and bliss, which are the natural essences of the Atman, seem to inhere in the wakeful Jiva on account of its relation with the Atman. Likewise, these facets of the Atman are felt also in the dreaming self, by way of the impressions of the waking consciousness. And just as, on the disappearance of the foam, their characteristics, such as liquidity, revert to the waves, and, again, as with the subsiding of the waves in the sea, these exist in the waters of the sea as before; so existence, consciousness and bliss manifest themselves and shine in the waking consciousness after the disappearance of the dreaming state; and then, again, on the dissolution of the waking phenomena in the Atman, these eternal natures are experienced in the Atman, which is the highest reality. In Moksha, or the final liberation of the soul, when all objective perception is overcome in the consciousness of Brahman, even the character of being a witness drops from the self, and it realises its majestic independence.
Sometimes the states of consciousness are regarded as being sixteen in number. “There are sixteen states of consciousness. They are made up as follows: There are the four primary states of consciousness, called Jagrat, Svapna, Sushupti and Turiya (waking, dreaming, deep sleep and the Witness-consciousness). These, by differentiation, multiply into sixteen states. These are Jagrat-Jagrat (waking in waking), Jagrat-Svapna (waking in dreaming), Jagrat-Sushupti (waking in sleep), Jagrat-Turiya (waking in super-consciousness), and so on with the remaining three other states. These sixteen states, by further differentiation, become two hundred and sixty-six states. These, again, by the differentiation of the phenomenal and the noumenal, become five hundred and twelve states. To realise these states of consciousness, it is very difficult, and is not possible for everyone.” “That is called Jagrat-Jagrat, in which there are no such ideas as ‘this’ or ‘mine’ regarding visible things. The great ones call that Jagrat-Svapna in which all ideas of name and form are given up. This is preceded by the realisation of the nature of Satchidananda. In the state of Jagrat-Sushupti, there is no idea but Self-knowledge. In Jagrat-Turiya the conviction becomes firm that the three states,—gross, subtle and causal—are false. In Svapna-Jagrat there comes the conviction that even the activities proceeding from the astral plane, owing to causes set in motion previously, do not bind the self, when the knowledge of the physical plane is destroyed. In Svapna-Svapna there is no seer, seen and sight, when the Karana-Ajnana (ignorance which is the root of all) is destroyed. It is Svapna-Sushupti where by means of increased subtle thinking, the modifications of one’s mind get merged in knowledge. That is Svapna-Turiya, in which the innate bliss (pertaining to the individual self) is transcended by the attainment of universal bliss. That state is called Sushupti-Jagrat in which the experience of Self-bliss takes the shape of universal intelligence through the rising of the corresponding mental modifications. In Sushupti-Svapna one identifies oneself with the modifications of the mind which has long been immersed in the experience of inward bliss. When one attains oneness of knowledge (Bodhaikya), which is above these mental modifications and above the realisation of any abstract condition, one is said to be in Sushupti-Sushupti. In Sushupti-Turiya, Akhandaikarasa (the one undivided essence of bliss) manifests itself, of its own accord. When the enjoyment of the Akhandaikarasa is natural in the waking state, one is said to be in Turiya-Jagrat. Turiya-Svapna is difficult of attainment; it is a state in which the enjoyment of Akhandaikarasa becomes natural even in one’s dreaming condition. The still higher state of Turiya-Sushupti is even more difficult of accomplishment. In this state, the one undivided essence of bliss manifests itself to the Yogi, even in deep sleep. The highest state is Turiya-Turiya, wherein Akhandaikarasa disappears like the dust of the clearing nut (Kataka) used for clearing water. This is the Arupa or the formless state and is beyond cognition” (Vedanta in Daily Life, pp. 211-14). The Kaivalyopanishad says that the states of consciousness are appearances of one Brahman, and that one who knows this is freed from all bonds (Verse, 17).