This type of enquiry is essential when we talk about the term consciousness.
Consciousness is the ability to perceive. Consciousness is not thought, emotion, or sensation on the body. Consciousness is perception, but it is beyond the physical senses.
Right now we are all perceiving through the senses, we are hearing with our ears, seeing through our eyes, we can sense with the feeling of touch — those perceptions are all being received in one place and that is the consciousness itself, it is the perceiver that is looking through the lenses of the senses. We can also call that awareness.
Consciousness is the central point that religion rotates around, because it is the centre point of any experience of living, of existing. Our state of consciousness determines our experience of life.
So, what is our state of consciousness? Moreover, what is our level of consciousness? We probably do not have a fact-based answer to that question, because none of us really study the consciousness, but we should. The whole of religion is about the state of our consciousness. We should know the state of our consciousness.
So, we immediately need to analyze: what is consciousness? How does it work? What do I experience of consciousness and perception? If you are serious about that observation, you will discover that in the instant of enquiring, the consciousness changes.
Naturally, we know from observation that our thoughts change, our emotions change. In this type of conscious enquiry, we learn to observe thoughts and feelings as though we are watching someone else, another person.
We continually have lots of thoughts that happen, lots of emotion that happen, and we move the body. To some degree, we perceive all of that, but in the midst of it, our ability to perceive it changes. Sometimes we are not really aware, we are doing whatever we are doing and we have thoughts that are moving around in our heads and we have emotions that are moving around in our hearts, but we are not really aware of all of those things all of the time. That is, our limited perception is switching from one phenomenon to another. We have a little bit of awareness of what we are doing physically, but most of our awareness will be in our thoughts, then in emotions, then on the tv, etc.
For example, when we are cooking, our awareness is supposedly on the cooking, but mostly we are thinking. So while we are cooking, we are thinking, “I have this problem, and I need to solve my problem, and I need to figure out what I am going to do.” So our hands are doing the cooking, but our attention is distracted. Our attention is bouncing from a thought to an emotion, then the phone rings and we take the phone call, and all the while we are still cooking; then someone is talking in the other room and we are halfway listening to that conversation because we want to know what they are talking about. So you see, our attention is dispersed, distracted, not very consistent or strong; instead, it leaps around. That is our state of consciousness.
That quality of consciousness we can call a “wild mind.” Some call it monkey-mind. It is a very distracted state, and it is one in which suffering is the primary quality, and is characterized by a lack of knowing, with the presence of uncertainty, anxiety, doubt, anger, envy, fear, and many other emotional qualities. It has a surging mind, with thoughts that constantly call for our attention, and different sensations on the body that constantly call for our attention. In other word, our internal state is a chaos, a random, constantly shifting, changing landscape, with no certainty and nothing reliable. That is the state of consciousness of most people, and most people are not aware of it. But that is exactly what has to change if we want to understand what gnosis is, what religion is.
We need to understand what is perception, what is awareness, what are all these things in myself. So really what we are talking about here is our psychology.
In this tradition we talk about having three brains. That is, we have three centers of activity, three psychological aspects: our head, our heart, and our hands, body, action, movement. These are three realms of psychological functioning.
Our Three Brains
In our current state of consciousness, each one tends to operate independently of the others, without our awareness. So while we are thinking about something, some other feelings are happening in us, and physically we are doing something altogether different. Our three brains are not integrated, and we are not aware of them. This leads us to problems.
While we are distracted by thinking, and distracted by emotions, and doing different types of activities, we are not really aware of how they relate to each other. We are not aware that each one of them is using energy in its own way, usually excessively, and then we wonder why we are tired, why we have pain, why we have doubt, anxiety, uncertainty, and we do not have answers to the questions that we need answered. It is because of this: how is awareness, consciousness engaged in all of this from moment to moment?
All the ancient religions presented to the followers a way of changing that in ourselves, and working on ourselves. Each one has their own term for it; in Buddhism they call it dharma, while in Hinduism they call it yoga. These words have a great deal of significance. Today I want to talk about how Hinduism presents this knowledge, because it is the oldest and it is also simple to understand and easy to apply.
Most people when they hear this word “yoga” think of stretching and contorting the body in all kinds of strange looking positions. That type of yoga is really superficial; it is fine for exercising the body, but it has really nothing to do with awakening the consciousness or developing spiritually.
- yoga: union
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “union.” It is describing the union of our experience with reality. It means that our individual perception becomes unified with facts, with what is real, with what is true, not what is merely illusion [maya] but what is real. So, that is really what yoga means: it is the experience of uniting with reality. From that perspective, you can see that doing different bodily positions is not going to have much impact on your perception or consciousness, it is only going to change the position of the physical body. We need to change the position of our perception. The word yoga is related to the Latin word religare, which means to reunite, and that is the root of the word religion.
The main and most important teaching of yoga is in the scripture called The Bhagavad-gita. This is one of the most important books of Hinduism, and presents a teaching Krishna gave. If you do not know who Krishna is, then you should read this book. The Bhagavad-gita means “the song of the lord.” Krishna is an equivalent symbol to Jesus Christ, and the same as Avalokiteshvara / Chenrezig from Buddhism. These are all the same symbol, they represent the same thing.