Saturday, 4 July 2015

From Relative To Absolute Consciousness

Consciousness, meaning awareness or knowledge, has two dimensions. The consciousness in normal human beings that `I am So-and-So' is a relative, objective, physical or psychological consciousness rooted in names and forms, cause and effect. Whereas absolute consciousness or pure, objectless, divine consciousness is beyond names and forms, cause and effect and is an essential attribute of the Self, Atman or Brahmn, referred to as `chit', in the phrase sat-chit-ananda.

Self is all-pervading and omnipresent. All that exists is referred to as the `sat' aspect of sat-chit-ananda. All existence can be grouped into two main entities living and non-living, sentient and inert, seer and seen, knower and known, subject and object. The Self in its `chit' aspect is vividly expressed in all living beings, particularly human beings, due to presence of mind and intellect and is dormant in non-living objects. Hence conscious beings perceive, think, analyse, discriminate and evolve whereas inert objects do not perceive and evolve ­ or, they evolve very slowly.

Relative consciousness has its merits and demerits. The obverse side is that we can perceive each and every object and being bearing a name and form and we can relate ourselves with them. It also helps express our apparent identity as body, mind, intellect (BMI) equipment bearing a particular name and identity and lead our earthly life with personal, professional and social objectives and values. The obverse side is that BMI equipment becomes a blockade in manifestation of our essential divine consciousness.

In ordinary human beings, world or physical consciousness covers God or divine consciousness like a moss covering the surface of pond water. When a spiritual aspirant follows the process of removing world consciousness ­ clearing the moss higher consciousness comes to the fore. However, when one stops the effort, world consciousness creeps in like moss on the water's surface. Spiritual process is therefore persistent and tenacious effort to gradually cease world consciousness and transform it into spiritual consciousness. What is the root cause and way out?

Avidya or ignorance of our true Self is the root cause. Avidya sprouts into ahankara, ego, that leads to raga, attachment; dvesha, likes and dislikes and abhinivesh, clinging to worldly objects. As long as these five kleshas or obstacles persist, relative consciousness and pairs of dualities like pain and pleasure persist and our true Self cannot manifest.

The irony is that this very relative consciousness helps us in reaching absolute consciousness that is not known to us as such. When antakaram or the BMI equipment is cleansed of its dirt and dross in the form of subtle impressions and tendencies and rendered still, by spiritual practices such as selfless service, devotion and meditation, the faculty of intuition is awakened, enabling the manifestation of absolute consciousness. Intuition is possible only because of interconnectedness and essential unity of all objects and beings. Intellect leads to psychological consciousness that is indirect, mediate and relative whereas intuition leads to spiritual consciousness that is direct, immediate and absolute.

Purusharthas, the three objects of human aspirations ­ dharma, artha and kama ­ are pursued when one is in a state of relative consciousness. The fourth and final aspiration of moksha, liberation, is attained when one transcends psychological consciousness and abides in spiritual consciousness. Relative consciousness is characterised by exclusivity where one beholds oneself as Dehbuddhi or BMI equipment or residing in it (jivbuddhi). Whereas absolute consciousness is characterised by inclusivity where one beholds all existence as one mass of consciousness and bliss.

By Jayant B Dave - First Published on

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