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States of consciousness

Māṇḍūkya Kārikā describes four states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and turya.




The Māṇḍūkya Kārikā is a fundamental text in the Advaita Vedanta tradition, written by Gaudapada. This text focuses on the sylable Aum and the four states of consciousness it depicts.

  1. Waking State (Jagrat) - Consciousness Turned Outward:

  • In this state, consciousness is turned outward, engaging with the external world through the senses. We are fully identified with the body and experiences of the empirical and material reality. This state is associated with the first syllable "A" of the sacred syllable Om.

  • In the waking state our sense organs (5 organs of action and 5 organs of perception) and mind are actively engaged with the external world. The consciousness in this state is directed outwards, and we fully identify with the body, mind and intellect and our ego (persona). This is the state where we interact with the world and perform actions (karma).

  1. Dream State (Swapna) - Consciousness Turned Inward:

  • Here, consciousness is turned inward, and we experience a world that is entirely subjective and internally created. This state reflects the impressions, memories, and desires made in the waking state and now manifesting as dreams. It corresponds to the syllable "U" of Om, representing an intermediate or transitional state between the material and the spiritual.

  • When sleeping and dreaming, the consciousness is internalised, creating a world of experiences out of our past impressions without the input from the external sense organs. We are not aware of the true Self, but still subconsciously engaged with the mind in the creation and experience of dreams. Here, the experiences are purely subjective, and while the sense organs are depicted, they are not connected to the external world but rather are involved in the internal dream world.

  1. Deep Sleep State (Sushupti) - Formless Consciousness:

  • In the deep sleep state, there is no dream activity, andwe are dissolved into a state of undifferentiated consciousness. This state is characterised by bliss (ānanda) and ignorance of the true self, as there is an absence of both sensory and mental activities. It is linked with the syllable "M" of Om, symbolising the merging of consciousness into its source.

  • In the state of deep, dreamless sleep, tour minds merge into formless consciousness. There are no mental images or perceptions from sense organs, and the ego and intellect are dormant. Although the deep sleep state is often described as experiencing limitless bliss, there is no awareness of the Self, since there is no object of consciousness. It is a state of potentiality and peace, of blissful ignorance!

  1. Turiya (The Fourth State) - Pure Awareness:

  • Turiya is described as the state of pure consciousness, which underlies and transcends the three common states of consciousness. It is not really a state in the conventional sense but represents the true and eternal nature of reality—non-dual, unchanging, and infinite. Turiya is associated with the silence after the pronunciation of Aum. It represents the realization of the self's ultimate identity with Brahman, the universal consciousness.

  • This state is realised in meditation or in moments when the mind is suspended.

Understanding these differnt states, we begin to discern between the changing and the non-changing, the unreal ore relatively real and the real. The waking state is given as much promenance as the dream and deep-sleep...another state of consciouness all o

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