The Philosophy of Consciousness

The Philosophy of Consciousness


Excerpt from the book ‘Consciousness is Everything‘ by Swami Shankarananda. 

Conciousness-200x300This book is designed for seekers who are well-established in their practice. It is also for those who have a special interest in Kashmir Shaivism and are curious as to how the discipline would be treated from a yogic perspective.

I recognise that I have included a daunting amount of Sanskrit words and technical ideas. Had I not written Happy [Swamiji’s guide to meditation Happy For No Good Reason], I would feel guilty about this. On the other hand, I am sure that seekers in the two categories I have mentioned will have no trouble with the text.Now, what if a beginning meditator wandered in here by mistake? Well,he can’t leave without at least reading Chapter Five, You Are Your Awareness. The essence is there. Also, I would refer him to Happy, which has sizeable discussions of Kashmir Shaivism. If he is willing to work through this text, however, I am providing here a short, nontechnical overview of Shaivism. It is the heart of Shaivism as I see it: Shaivism is known as ‘the three’ because it discusses these three subjects:

♦ The nature of the Absolute

♦ The nature of the human being and contraction

♦ The method by which contraction is overcome

Shaivism holds that pure awareness and not matter is the basic stuff of the universe. This can be compared to the situation in a dream, in which the awareness of the dreamer is the fundamental substratum of everything that appears in the dream. The one Consciousness that underlies the universe can also be called God. Here we are referring to God as the Absolute, beyond any specific form.

Consciousness Itself

For reasons known only to Him, God decides to create a universe and become many. By means of His Power, which can be personified as His feminine aspect, He creates the universe in His own being, Himself becoming the individual soul by a process of contraction. Though it appears in Consciousness, the created world is real. The universe is actually Consciousness vibrating at different frequencies, becoming more material and gross as it unfolds.

The human individual is nothing but God in a contracted form. When the individual looks at himself, he notices that he has the same qualities as the Absolute, though they are shrunken and vitiated. God has perfect will, perfect knowledge and perfect ability to do, while the human individual has all of these powers in limitation. They show up in him as three basic knots within his being.

The first knot is limitation of will. The human individual experiences it in his heart as a painful sense of separation, weakness and grief. This is the fundamental birth trauma in which God becomes the individual. The limitation of knowledge is experienced in the mind. The human mind experiences darkness and confusion and strains to understand the truth. The third knot is experienced in the navel area and is felt as a sense of frustration and lack of fulfilment.

Shaivism asks us to recognise our similarity with God and ultimately our oneness with Him. It minutely examines the human condition as a contraction that moves us from the divine status to that of a human being. It recognises a power of contraction and delusion that brings this about. The power is real but is actually an aspect of God. One of the ways it shows up is in language. The language that God uses in His true state expresses His ecstatic song of oneness, while human language tends to perpetuate separation and weakness.

Having looked at the human situation, Shaivism now turns to the solution, a methodology for overcoming the woes and limitations of the human being. Shaivism proposes a comprehensive inner technology designed to restore the human being to his inherent oneness with God. For this, he has to loosen the knots in his heart, mind and navel by means of three methods.

To heal the contraction in his navel, he tries to act well in all situations and come into harmony with the higher power. To heal the contraction in his mind, having discovered its cause in the misuse of language, he tries to bring his thinking into alignment with his highest good. To heal the existential angst in his heart, he tries to transcend thinking altogether and merge himself in the oneness of pure Consciousness.

Having profoundly practised these spiritual methods, the Shaivite seeker recognises the divinity within his own Self and also outside himself in the world and in other people. His main insight is that the subject, or Consciousness, is not separate from the object, or matter. In fact, he experiences directly that the object is contained within his subjectivity,that is, within Consciousness. He has now reached the culmination and the goal of the practice of Shaivism and he stands as a liberated being, fully free within himself, shining with divine wisdom and radiant with love.


Love your own Self

Love your own Self

‘Meditate on your own Self, worship your own Self, honour your own Self, love your own Self. God dwells within you as you,’ said an advertisement in the local morning paper. This was an unusually positive message for an American paper with ties to the racially conflicted city of Detroit, Michigan.

It was September 1974, a beautiful time of year in the Midwest. I was living in Ann Arbor with Danny, a young man who was to become my husband, and working at the University of Michigan Counselling Services. A few days later he came home from class and told me he had received an invitation from his psychology professor to meet a holy man from India, a Guru named Baba Muktananda, the writer of the benevolent message.

Baba’s message uplifted and puzzled me. I was stirred by the mysterious words ‘God dwells within you, as you’. They resonated with truth. But, to believe that God lived within me, as me, seemed an impossible attainment.

The vision inherent in that message was powerful and compassionate, two qualities I had not yet encountered. Later, as I became familiar with my inner world, I began to understand its significance. I would not know the true meaning of Baba’s words until I understood how I made life difficult for myself.

A few days later, intrigued and curious about the mystic East, Danny and I pulled up outside a grand old fraternity house. It was freshly painted white weatherboard with black shutters; something that would look more comfortable nestled at Cape Cod than in this small university town. It appeared normal except for the large black sign ‘Siddha Yoga Dham’ on the rooftop. As I entered, the smell of incense filled my nostrils. There was a subtle electricity in the atmosphere; everything was extraordinarily bright. My attention was drawn to a photograph of a naked man lying on his side, smiling mysteriously. He seemed odd, eccentric. I wondered who he was and what he represented but I was not dismayed. Even though the ambience was unfamiliar, I was completely at ease.

Baba was sitting on a small sofa, answering questions. The room was alive and still at the same time. His bright orange clothes blazed warmth in the fall chill. As I sat down I glanced up at him. Our eyes met and although no words were spoken, I felt welcomed. There was laughter as he told a story. He said that everyone had an inner Self and that happiness could be found within. As he spoke I felt a pull and my attention was drawn to my inner being. The room faded as I grew drowsy and the last thing I remember is my head falling forward. I came back to the room with a start to Danny poking me on the shoulder. Time had passed. I did not want to leave but we had to pick up a friend at the airport.

I felt a twinge of regret as I unsteadily stood to go. I wondered if I would see him again. I regretted that I was busy during the rest of the time he was visiting Ann Arbor. He was still answering questions, so without saying goodbye, we left. As we walked to the car I asked Danny how long we had been there. I was surprised to learn it was only half an hour. I felt like I had slept for eight hours, yet it was different. I was transported to a place deep within me, connected to the whole world, truly in touch with myself for the first time. As we drove away I said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but that man has something.’

(to be continued)