What is Consciousness?

By Sadhguru on Sunday October 18th, 2015

A Mystic's Perspective

‘Consciousness’ is a highly abused word, used in many different ways. First of all, let me define what we refer to as consciousness. You are a combination of many things. As a piece of life, as a body, you are a certain amount of earth, water, air, fire, and akash or ether. And there is a fundamental intelligence that puts all these things together in a particular way to make life out of it. The same ingredients that are lying there as mud sit here as life – what an incredible transformation! There is a profound and unimaginable level of intelligence that can make simple things like air into life. If the air stops, life goes.

Whether it is a tree, a bird, an insect, a worm, an elephant, or a human being – just about anything is made up of the same simple material. We call this intelligence that makes life happen ‘consciousness.’ The only reason why you experience life and aliveness is because you are conscious. If you are unconscious, you do not know whether you are alive or dead. If you are in deep sleep, you are alive but you do not know it.

Consciousness Cannot be Raised

You actually can neither raise consciousness, nor can you bring it down. We only use the expression of “raising consciousness” against the following background: if you are strongly identified with your physical body, the boundaries of what is you and what is not you are distinctly clear. In this state, you experience yourself as a separate existence. This means you are in survival mode, which is what every other creature is in too. When you identify yourself as the body, the boundaries of who you are, are 100% fixed.

Sadhguru sitting on rock
Then… the boundaries disappear

Even in the physical realm, the more subtle something is, the more the boundaries disappear. We are breathing the same air, which also includes some moisture. As we breathe, we constantly exchange air and water. We have no problems with this exchange between us because we are not identified with the air and the water. But we are identified with our body and consider it as ourselves, so we do not want anyone to transgress the boundaries of our body.

All of us are conscious to some extent. The question is to what degree you are conscious.

Consciousness is Shared by Everyone

What we refer to as consciousness is a much subtler dimension of who you are, and it is commonly shared by everyone. It is the same intelligence that is turning food into flesh in me, in you, in everyone. If we move people from being identified with the boundaries of their physical body to a deeper dimension within themselves, their sense of ‘me’ and ‘you’ decreases – ‘you’ and ‘I’ seem to be the same. This means consciousness has risen on a social level.

Essentially, we do not raise consciousness. We raise your experience so that you become more conscious. All of us are conscious to some extent. The question is to what degree you are conscious. You do not have to raise your consciousness – you have to raise yourself to find access to it and experience it. Consciousness is there all the time. If it was not, you would not be able to convert your breath and your food into life. You are alive – that means you are conscious. But so far, you only have minimal access. As your access improves, your sense of boundary expands.

If you become identified with consciousness, you will experience everyone as yourself. This is what yoga means.

The word ‘yoga’ means union. Human beings are trying to experience this sense of union in so many ways. If it finds a very basic expression, we call it sexuality. If it finds an emotional expression, we call it love. If it finds a mental expression, it gets labeled as greed, ambition, conquest, or simply shopping. If it finds a conscious expression, we call it yoga. But the fundamental process and longing are the same. That is, you want to include something that is not you as a part of yourself. You want to obliterate the distance or the boundaries between you and the other.

Touching a Dimension Beyond

Whether it is sexuality or a love affair, ambition or conquest – all you are trying to do is make what is not you a part of yourself. And so with yoga. Yoga means becoming one with everything, or in other words, obliterating the boundaries of who you are. Instead of talking about it, instead of intellectualizing it, we are looking at how to raise your experience from the physical aspect of who you are to a dimension beyond the physical.

This is what Shambhavi does – taking you to a twilight zone. You are still rooted in the body but you are beginning to touch a dimension beyond, so that your experience of life is not limited to your body – you experience it as a larger phenomenon. This is raising consciousness. It means you experience all the people around you as a part of yourself.

Guru hands
The material that makes the five fingers on your hand was in the earth some time ago

The material that makes the five fingers on your hand was in the earth some time ago – now it is your five fingers. What was on your plate yesterday as food was not ‘you.’ But you ate it, and today you experience it as a part of yourself. You are capable of experiencing anything as a part of yourself if only you include it into your boundaries. You cannot eat the entire universe. You have to expand your boundaries in different ways.

Expanding the sensory boundaries in such a way that if you sit here, the entire universe is a part of yourself – this is yoga; this is raising consciousness. We are not doing it philosophically or ideologically but experientially, using a technological process that everyone can make use of. Why a technology is – the nature of a technology is such that it will work for whoever is willing to learn to use it. You do not have to believe it; you do not have to worship it; you do not have to carry it on your head. You just have to learn to use it.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Words By Sadhguru

Originally posted on ISHA






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19 Responses to What is Consciousness?

  1. Sadhguru has many YouTube talks and I enjoy them all. His flare for deep insight into spiritual aspects and growth together with a whimsical sense of humor is his trademark and makes him an excellent teacher. Mooji is another living teacher I respect with a similar message. Watts, Krishnamurti, McKenna, and Jung are other resources I use. Some talks are elusive or heady, but once you grasp it and understand what they are teaching you it is another level of awareness/awakening. I think reading their expressions is good, but if you listen to an actual talk, I feel it is better and you pick up on subtle nuances in their speech that is key. Great topic!

  2. Manifested and unmanifested, dual and non dual, identified with thought, feelings, objects or in the space of not knowing, of not being and yet being, of nothing and everything. I agree the key is the experience, words will always be inadequate. Consciousness is where the thinking mind has to bow out, a knowing beyond thought. It is our essential matter, always there from our first breath to our last and beyond and yet most of us live in disconnect from it.

  3. This article was so clear to me for the first time. I feel like I have just opened the door to this twilight zone. It is a magical place whereby I am in love with everyone and everything. It makes time to even disappear. It is like pure endless energy running through me. I have such gratitude finding this Union. Thank you for putting this into words. I am excited now just being.

  4. It’s a play of words by Sadhguru to express the inexpressible. So far the best explanation of life I have come across is from Tim Freke who has put it all into book form “Soul Story – evolution and the purpose of life” It’s a successful attempt to use scientific terms to describe the indescribable.

  5. ‘This is a beautifully written article that takes an immense and nebulous subject and renders it not only understandable, but applicable in my daily life experience! I want to learn more from this guru!

  6. One can try to understand something apparently not understandable, by closing eyes, sit in silence – external and internal as much as possible – and concentrate on the word. ‘Consciousness’ appears connoting some thing or a meaning ‘not finite’ which has no know boundaries in any dimensional sense – say a matrics of infinite size and order or dimension; homogenity or hetrogenity of which is totally uncertain and beyond comprehension. I am sorry I am not able to explain – rather getting lost or overwhelmed. Such attribute can be just thought of — mind us all – not assigned since nothing can be assigned or comprehended to God. Yet one has to examine all what Sadguru has stated in finite realm of living, unliving or non living. Look at the variations in all its variances in individual objects to group of objects forming the entire Universe , consisting of material, psychlogical, seen and unseen form, connection or combination or relatability Etc. Finally, getting not further appearing confused, ‘Consciousness’ is all what is creation – past with time limitation, present and future without time limitation. Perhaps, may I be permitted to use ‘GOD’ for a wider sense of and calling as ‘Cosmic Consciousness’. My knowledge level is so limited that right now I am not able to express myself more.

  7. An interesting article can’t grasp all of it.”consciousness ” in my opinion is all pervasive in living and non-living.It is undefined energy which has created the universe. As of now it is beyond our comprehension.

  8. This seems obscure and wordy to me: the topic is important but I simply have no trust in this particular contribution whatsoever.

  9. Yes! Excellent article. I always tell people we are not trying to expand our consciousness, rather we expand our awareness into the One consciousness.

  10. A good article and good comments that follow. I am investigating Quantum Field Theory and certain aspects of the many fields (energy) seem to be spiritual like. Fields exist and flow through the universe. The concept of a Conscious Field stimulate other things, flowing through a rock it would be strange for the rock to respond the same as it does in other things like a body or a brain. When imbued with consciousness a body is alive but when Life, Love and Light (Spirit/ Soul) is gone, the body or any organ does not function at all. Our boundary vanishes with Astral Projection beyond the body.

    • Hello Sidney, I am an energy healer , I use the quantum energy field to help people ! Do you know what the “energy medicine “is about?”. You might be very interested to look at. Anyway everything is energy and consciousness is only energy!

  11. Consciousness is a field in which creative and sustaining intelligence and information works. It is a space-time field that works against the space time field that modern west is studies. It is the black hole

  12. If you want to get clarity in this matter, then check out something called Alkuajatus – The Original Thought. It doesn’t offer beliefs or products of the imagination, it provides clear and straightforward knowledge that helps one to find the answers from where they are at.

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