What is Consciousness? A Mystic’s Perspective
Q: Namaskaram, Sadhguru. What is the relationship between the work we are doing in Isha, including our sadhana, and raising human consciousness?Sadhguru: “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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the ebook “Of Mystics and Mistakes”, available on Isha Downloads.