Devas 101

“As we become more and more familiar with super-subtle phenomenology, one starts to experience that the laws of Nature, as they appear, have personality, and they have an appearance about them, and that appearance is one of shining, the shining ones, the Devas.”

Thom Knoles

All of us are used to perceiving the world around us in terms of varying objective characteristics; hard and soft, hot and cold, solid and fluid, and so on.

We might even attribute subjective qualities to the world around us; hostile, inviting, harsh, comfortable…

But does it make sense to attribute ‘personality’ to the world around us?

In the Vedic worldview, it doesn’t just “make” sense, but it’s actually a natural consequence of the refinement of the senses that we can perceive personality in everything around us. 

In this episode, Thom gives us an entry-level look into the worlds of Devas. He shares a tempting glimpse into the delights that await us, especially those who maintain their regular twice-daily practice of Vedic Meditation. 

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Episode Highlights


Deva: More Than Just Shining One



Vedic Literature and the Devas



Power of Mantras



Letting Go of External Distractions



Fascination of Subtle Mind States



Enchantment in the Super-Subtle Mind



Ritam: Transition to Pure Transcendence



The Laws of Nature



From Snow to Flow: Nature’s Transformations



The Source of All Laws: Consciousness



Sharpening Your Senses Through Meditation



The Shining Ones



Development of God Consciousness



Benefits of Experiencing the Devic World



The Wise Seers



Progression to Cosmic and Deva Consciousness



Consciousness Is Everything



Your Inner Observer



Deva Quality in Meditation



Let Deva Consciousness Come to You Naturally


Jai Guru Deva


Devas 101

[00:45] Deva: More Than Just Shining One

Welcome to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.

I’d like to spend some time clarifying the subject of the word Deva, D-E-V-A. Deva is a Sanskrit word which means literally “a shining one,” but it has a lot more connotative meaning than merely the literal denotative meaning of a shining one.

It is interesting that it is also the etymology that is the word source for our English words divine, for deity, and other words that have to do with things that are god-like.

Frequently, the word deva is thought by people as meaning something to do with gods, lower case g gods. Or, if spelled with upper case, Maha Deva. Maha is great in Sanskrit. Deva would, in that case, be spelled with a capital D to denote someone like Shiva.

Shiva, one of the five aspects of Supreme Being, as cited by the Vedic literature, one of five aspects of Supreme Being. The remover of irrelevancy. Deva.

We also hear the word deva, in short, in the words, Jai Guru Deva, which frequently you’ll hear at the beginning and end of my podcasts.

Jai is actually Jaya. Jaya. J-A-Y-A. But with that final “a” muted as is frequent in Sanskrit.

In spoken Sanskrit, when there is a soft “a,” a short “a” at the end of a word, more often than not, that soft “a” is swallowed. So Jaya becomes Jay [or Jai].

Guru is Guru. G-U-R-U. Gu means that which obscures darkness, and Ru means remover, in fact, is our etymology word source for our English word remover, Ru.

Dev. Jai Guru Deva. Deva is Deva with the final a swallowed. Jai Guru Deva. Meaning glory to the Guru, the shining one. The illuminated Guru.

And so this shining, which is in the word deva, is expressive of a common experience that is had when one has a self-referral experience, deep in the silent reaches of consciousness, in the subtlest layer of the human mind before transcendence.

[04:17] Vedic Literature and the Devas

So, let’s dive into some of those concepts. In the Vedic literature, in the 10th mandala, the Veda, Rig Veda, the primary Vedic text, is divided into ten wheels, mandalas. And in the 10th mandala, it is stated Richo akshare parame vyoman yasmin deva adhe vishwe nishedhu.

What does this mean? Richo akshare; all knowledge of all things. Akshare, is found in the akshara, in the transcendent field of consciousness. That is to say, all experiences, all knowledge, all that can be experienced is embedded in the consciousness field of an individual. The individual consciousness field is one with the cosmic consciousness field.

Richo akshare parame vyoman yasmin deva adhe vishwe nishedhu. It states this also is the realm. That is to say, consciousness, the deep inner, quiet consciousness, is the realm of the devas. This is the English way that we pluralize the word deva.

In Sanskrit, we would say devah, that is D-E-V-A-H, but in English, if we want to make more than one of a thing, we just add an S onto the end. So, we’re going to use that Anglicized version and say devas. Devas.

What are these devas? In the final analysis and the ultimate analysis, they can be nothing other than all other impulses of knowledge. And that is to say, elements of the Knower. Elements of the K-N-O-W-E-R, Knower. Knower.

[06:35] Power of Mantras

Who is the Knower? Well, ultimately, it is your own least-excited consciousness state. Your own least-excited consciousness state is that place that you touch upon during the practice of Vedic Meditation, when the pulsation of the mantra, mantras are specific sounds that we use in our technique of Vedic Meditation. Not just any old mantra, like something you learn in a yoga studio or something, but a very specific kind of mantra.

Man is mind in Sanskrit, tra means a conveyance, mantra, a mind conveyance. A sound, a seed sound, a bija. Bija is seed. A seed sound, seed mantra. Bija mantra, a sound whose resonance with the thinker of it is perfect with the psycho-physiological condition of the thinker.

So in Vedic Meditation, as we know, a properly trained instructor, Initiator, of Vedic Meditation will draw upon their knowledge that they’ve been given by me, or by my tradition, of who receives which mantra for having the experience of stepping beyond thought.

And then, once one has received one’s proper personalized mantra, a mantra is the sound which you’re going to use to meditate with. The vibratory characteristics of the mantra have to match the vibratory characteristics of the meditator, the thinker of the mantra.

And the mantra is used in a particular, very effortless fashion to allow the mind to settle down to less and less excited states. The least-excited state of the mind is that state just before absolute transcendence.

[08:55] Letting Go of External Distractions

As our mind settles down to less and less excited states, the degree to which our sensory apparatus and our mind are attached to outer, external phenomenology. You know, is it raining? Is it sunny? Is it snowing? Is it warm? Is it cold? Are people being nice or people not being nice? Am I having difficulty? Am I not having difficulty?

Are things frictionless, or to what extent is there friction in my trying to close the gap between the rising of a desire and the fulfillment of the desires? How am I going with living my life in fulfillment? What are the obstacles to that? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All of that which is just going on in the human mind all the time.

One’s attachment to all of that becomes less and less as, in those subtle regions of thinking, one is beginning to experience abstract thought styles during Vedic Meditation. We typically practice it sitting upright comfortably in a chair, back supported, head upright, and free.

And as per the instructions of your Initiator of Vedic Meditation, the mind embraces the bija mantra in an effortless fashion, and the mantra has this peculiar quality that, with each mental repetition of it, spontaneously it becomes more charming to experience. The mantra itself becomes more charming because it becomes subtler.

[10:38] Fascination of Subtle Mind States

In the subtler realm of the human mind, subtler and subtler layers of the human mind, the charm of thinking anything grows and grows and grows. This is why we can have what seems to be an absolutely fascinating dream, where the mind is experiencing what seems to be a fascinating subject.

But when we go to describe that dream to someone who was not there, and that’s anyone except you… one of the problems with being a dreamer is that you don’t have a shared experience with anyone else. Your dream was yours alone.

When you go to explain to them why it was so fascinating that in your dream you climbed into a tree and you were lying on a branch, and it was just so fascinating to you, but yet when you describe it in those words and try to make it literal to others so they can understand what it was you were dreaming, it feels very ho-hum to them.

In fact, I’m fond of saying, it takes a real friend to listen to you when you’re describing a dream to them, because they weren’t there and what you’re describing, generally speaking, is not the fascination or charm or the degree to which you are enchanted by the actual, literal things that seem to happen in the dream. Those aren’t so fascinating. What’s fascinating is the state of consciousness you are in.

[12:15] Enchantment in the Super-Subtle Mind

While we are in those very super-subtle abstract states, any thought becomes fascinating. “I was lying on a branch. Oh, so fascinating. I could talk about it for hours.” But the fact is, no one else is all that interested in the fact that you were lying on a branch.

It wasn’t you lying on the branch that was so fascinating. It was the enchanted state of mind that you were in while you were having the dreamlike experience of lying on a branch. That was what was fascinating: the enchanted state of consciousness you were in.

In the very, very subtle, the very quiet layers of the mind, we are getting closer to the unboundedness. The unboundedness means the state of Being. The state of that one indivisible, whole consciousness field. That one indivisible, whole consciousness field is the source of thought. We call it Being, as distinct from thinking and action.

Pure consciousness. Pure consciousness, and the mantra that we’re using in Vedic Meditation, is drawing our mind layer by layer into ever more enchanted layers of the thinking process.

It is not the content of thinking during Vedic Meditation which is so fascinating. It’s the fact that the mantra, by becoming subtle, is becoming intrinsically more charming to experience. And with each pulsation of it, the mind is drawn to subtler layers of thought.

[13:57] Ritam: Transition to Pure Transcendence

In the practice of Vedic Meditation, those who do the technique know that the mind doesn’t stay riveted to the mantra. For a little while, the mantra is there, and then the mind explores. It steps off the mantra inadvertently.

One has that intention effortlessly to entertain the mantra, but the mind inadvertently will begin to experience other forms, other phenomena, other thoughts, and the layer at which one is experiencing these is becoming increasingly enchanting.

And so then when the mantra has done its job of pulling the mind gently inward into ever more fascinating, more enchanting, more charming layers of the thinking process, one reaches finally the least-excited state. That least-excited state is the state that comes just before the state of pure transcendence.

Pure transcendence, that state where our individual consciousness has ceased to experience itself as individual. It has transcended. It has stepped beyond. And one has become one with the field of Being. The mind there has become the field of Being in the absolute field of transcendence.

One is experiencing complete oneness with the indivisible formless, unmanifest field of Being, the source of all creative intelligence, the absolute field, the unmanifest creative intelligence.

But just before that layer, there is another layer, and here, we have to use yet another Sanskrit word. Ritam, R-I-T-A-M. Ritam. Bhara, B-H-A-R-A. Pragya, P-R-A-G-Y-A. Ritam Bhara Pragya. Ritam Bara Pragya. And Ritam Bhara Pragya can be expressed in a nickname, because it’s a long word we can give it the nickname simply Ritam. R-I-T-A-M. Ritam.

[16:27] The Laws of Nature

In Ritam, one’s individuality is still present, although in a very abstract state, one is right on the cusp of pure transcendence. And there, one is able to experience with ever-increasing, as the years go by of practice, ever-increasing clarity, one is able to experience that which is issuing forth from the unmanifest.

What is it that is issuing forth from the unmanifest? The very first pulsations of consciousness, the very first individuations of the absolute unmanifest, unindividuated, non-individuated field.

As it breaks its super-symmetry and goes into individuation, individual form, individual function, it finds a home. Each one of these pulsations of creative intelligence finds a home as one of the laws of Nature that govern evolution.

The laws of Nature that govern evolution. What are they? The laws of Nature which we can explore, and with which humankind has been so fascinated since the dawn of time.

How is it that things work? What is it that causes one Law of Nature, one state of Being with its mechanics, to change its style of functioning and move and cascade into another style of functioning?

So, for example, recently here where I live, we had a very, very snowy winter. So far, and it’s not over with yet. About 12 accumulated feet of snow have fallen. Now, we have the very beginnings of spring. And what we’re seeing is water in the white form of snow piled up to, in some places still, it’s shoulder-deep, moving into its liquid form.

[18:57] From Snow to Flow: Nature’s Transformations

What is it that causes water to enter its white frozen form, crystalline form, which we call snow, the same water to leave its crystalline form and enter into its liquid form and begin to flow? And so then, what will happen next?

If you understand the laws of Nature, how they work, how they function, then it won’t be surprising that downhill from the mountaintop on which I live will be downstream because the snow is going to flow. Flowing snow is referred to as liquid water.

So, what are the cascades of the changes of water from crystalline to liquid and so on? What happens next? What happens next? What happens next? If you understand this, then you’re not surprised when you witness the effect of it. If you understand it very well, you can harness it.

You can actually capture that flowing water in an otherwise very arid environment in which I live. Here on the mountaintop, we’re on a sky island surrounded by an ocean of desert, and below us are communities that are desperately in need of water flow.

So, if you can understand it properly, you can harness it. And you can actually intervene and cause other cascades of laws of Nature to occur. So we would call this the beginnings of technology harnessing the laws of Nature.

[20:55] The Source of All Laws: Consciousness

So these laws of Nature, that is to say, the ways in which, the patterns with which, Nature itself functions. And then, with reference to the overall picture, the biggest pattern of the way the laws of Nature cascade one into another, we would call evolution.

This must have a beginning somewhere, and its beginning is in the least-excited state. The least-excited state of matter and the least-excited state of consciousness are one and the same. This is a fundamental tenet of the Vedic Worldview. least-excited state of matter, least-excited state of consciousness are one and the same.

When our individual awareness is able to experience with clarity the least-excited state of consciousness, then our individual state of mind, our individual mind, is also experiencing the least-excited state of matter. We’re experiencing the laws of Nature in their genesis.

From where do the laws of Nature spring? All right, they spring out of the one indivisible, whole unmanifest consciousness field, the Unified Field of consciousness. This is where the laws of Nature issue forth.

If we can station our awareness there with great enough regularity, morning, evening, morning, evening, we meditate for 20 minutes or so, twice each day, then a familiarity with the phenomenon of the supersymmetric state breaking its symmetry and issuing forth into individuation, our familiarity with that grows and grows and grows.

[23:02] Sharpening Your Senses Through Meditation

And as we become more and more familiar with that super-subtle phenomenology, our senses of perception, which we take with us into the meditation state, the finest level of sight, finest level of hearing, finest level of touch , smell, and taste all go with the mind into the least-excited state. With the same regularity the mind visits there, the subtle senses also visit there.

And as stress in the body is released more and more, with regular practice of meditation, one’s sensory perception, one’s capacity for acuity, that means acuteness, that is to say, the degree to which fineness of experience can be had with clarity, acuity.

One’s perceptual acuity grows and grows and grows, yielding the capacity for our senses to play a role in interpreting what’s being experienced as the unmanifest field breaks its symmetry and issues forth into individuation. And our senses begin to detect something which, in the very beginning days, can be rather delightful.

It could be surprising if you hadn’t heard a lecture about it like this. But it’s not so surprising once you have heard this.

One starts to experience that these laws of Nature, as they appear, have personality. They have personable character. That is to say, they are experienced by the mind as forms and phenomena that behave with very distinct personality. And they have an appearance about them, and that appearance is one of shining, the shining ones, the Devas.

[25:24] The Shining Ones

And thus, in the Vedic realm of thought, of reportage about what people have experienced, meditators who, over the last many thousands of years, have with great regularity reported upon what it is they experience when the mind with great regularity, strategically, systematically, morning, evening, morning, evening for years, continues to experience this point where unmanifest is manifesting, where Being is becoming.

This breaking of the symmetry yields an experience regularly, the subtlest that is available within the relative world. Those subtlest forms and phenomena are referred to as “Deva.” D-E-V-A, the shining ones.

One starts to experience the personalities of the laws of Nature. And these personalities of the laws of Nature, interestingly, are not presiding over the actual form of the laws of Nature.

So, for example, in the Greco-Roman way of describing their “gods.” We have a being, Apollo, who is presiding over the Sun. We have a being that is presiding over the phenomenon of fire.

In the Vedic worldview, one experiences it differently. The form of fire is, in fact, a being. And that being’s name can be known by virtue of super-acute sensory capacity of hearing. One can actually hear the vibration of the reality of that personality.

Agni. Agni. A-G-N-I. Agni. Agni is one of the sounds that issues forth from the phenomenology of experiencing fire. Gives us our English word igneous, ignition, ignite, Agni. Agni comes from Sanskrit. Yet again, evidence that English is merely Sanskrit spoken with a terrible accent. Agni, ignite, ignition, igneous, Agni, Agni.

So Agni is fire. Agni doesn’t preside over fire. Fire, yes, has a personality.

[28:24] Development of God Consciousness

The Sun, Surya, Surya, S-U-R-Y-A, is not a god presiding over the Sun in the Greco-Roman way of looking at things. There’s no presiding over. Surya is Sun. Surya is Sun. Agni is Fire. Apa is water. Prithivi is that quality of earth and so on. And it goes on and on and on.

One begins to experience the personalities of the phenomenology, the laws of Nature issuing forth from the one indivisible whole consciousness field of Being. And as one becomes more and more familiar with this phenomenology internally, during meditation, then the capacity to maintain that Ritam Bharat Pragyam, which we call Ritam for short, R-I-T-A-M.

The ability to station one’s awareness right at the cusp of the least-excited state. The ability to maintain contact with that least-excited state, but now, outside of meditation, one has developed such an extent of groundedness in the experience of Being.

And Being becoming unmanifest manifesting, one can maintain Ritam. One can maintain that capacity of individuality present along with experience of unboundedness, both at the same time. Now, not just in the eyes-closed state in meditation, but in the eyes-open state outside of meditation.

And with that capacity and one’s familiarity with the shining ones, with these impulses of creative intelligence, the laws of Nature personified, one discovers that one is living in a world surrounded by personalities. We refer to this consciousness state as “God Consciousness.” Deva Consciousness.

[31:02] Benefits of Experiencing the Devic World

Deva Consciousness, God Consciousness, is that consciousness state in which one is able to experience and interact with, at a very conscious level, the laws of Nature as personified as Devas. Now, obviously, this is not an experience that is common. And consequently, one has carefully to choose to whom one expresses all of these kinds of experiences one is having.

What are the advantages of being able to experience the Devic world? Well, you have lead time. You can see the lining up in preparation for there to be a cascade of phenomenology from one group of laws of Nature evolving and allowing succession to another group of laws of Nature. This successive quality gives you the ability to experience the future in the making.

The ability to experience how it is that Nature is evolving things. What is it that is going to follow what? And what are the mechanics by which a thing follows another thing? The cascading of the laws of Nature. The succession phenomenon of one Law of Nature successively giving rise to triggering and awakening the next Law of Nature.

One is able to have greater and greater accurate predictability about how things are unfolding. What is it that’s happening? And in what way is it happening? This is what makes somebody into a Seer.

[33:14] The Wise Seers

A Seer, English word, S-E-E-R, a Seer is someone who is to use the Sanskrit word, a Rishi. A Rishi is a Seer, someone from whom the functioning of the laws of Nature is not obscured. Someone who can see, without any obscurity or obscuration, how the laws of Nature are unfolding.

In what particular cascade the sequential elaboration from the steady supersymmetric state into the breaking of the symmetry into the systematic unfolding, sequential elaboration of evolution. How it is that things are going to move from being relevant to the process of evolution to being even more relevant.

What elements of the existing creation are up for having their relevance? Examined and removed that’s the destruction operator function. What elements of the laws of Nature are maintaining existing evolutionary phenomenology? What elements of the laws of Nature are creating, innovating, inventing new, that which is completely fresh and new that hasn’t been seen before?

New could mean new combinations as well. It could mean new connections. Or it could mean absolutely new, appearing from the Unified Field for the first time.

So the creation operator function, the maintenance operator function, and the function of the disintegration of that which no longer has relevance to the process of evolution, all of this starts to fall within the aegis of the consciousness of someone who is in Deva Consciousness, God Consciousness.

[35:38] Progression to Cosmic and Deva Consciousness

And this God Consciousness phenomenon is a regular reality of anyone who practices Vedic Meditation for long enough. After a sufficient number of years of regular twice-a-day practice, one begins to move from the ability to experience Being as one’s deep inner reality, but to experience Being as one’s deep inner reality not just in the eyes-closed state of meditation, but in the eyes-open state outside of meditation. This has a name, Cosmic Consciousness.

Cosmic Consciousness then begins to evolve into Deva Consciousness, God Consciousness. The ability to experience the phenomenology that’s issuing forth from the Unified Field as beings, worlds of beings, world after world of beings, the laws of Nature as personified.

And there’s one more consciousness state which we’ll examine on another occasion: Unity Consciousness. That’s for a later date.

So, what is a Deva? In the ultimate analysis, a Deva is the way that a law of Nature is being experienced by you within your own consciousness field.

Are there Devas that exist objectively outside of the consciousness field of a meditator? This is a bigger question, and let’s look at it the same question this way. Is there an object world that exists independently of an observer? The answer to that question is, no.

[37:37] Consciousness Is Everything

There is no object world that exists independently of the consciousness of an observer. This is a reality of modern science. The most successful theory of modern science which happens to be quantum mechanics.

It’s the most successful because quantum mechanics can predict the appearance of a phenomenon within a time tolerance of eight decimal places and time of accuracy.

And where that phenomenon is going to take place within an equivalent number of decimal places, about eight or nine decimal places of accuracy, so the when and the where, only quantum mechanics has this level of accuracy.

And it turns out to be the most successful theory of modern science because of it. But quantum mechanics also requires of us that we acknowledge that consciousness is the source of matter.

There is no matter. There are no forms. There are no phenomena in the absence of consciousness. Consciousness is that which conceives, constructs, governs, and becomes all things.

And so, then, this consciousness as the source of everything. Is there a world that ticks on and exists completely independent of a Knower? The answer that quantum mechanics gives, and which, equivalently, the Vedic worldview gives, is no. Without an observer, there are no things. We live in an observer-dependent universe.

And so then, are there Devas that are existing without somebody being conscious of them? No. Well, does that mean that Devas come into being when you become conscious of them?

[39:58] Your Inner Observer

No, because the one indivisible, whole consciousness field, the absolute field of Being, which you touch upon during your meditation, isn’t created by virtue of you touching on it. It’s your individual discovery of your own source.

But that source exists, and is the consciousness field that is observing all things, independently of an individual. An individual gets to experience their own baseline, their own source, and participate in the experience of the one indivisible, whole consciousness field, as a result of practicing Vedic Meditation.

Now, if all of this seems just too much, and a little bit highfalutin for some listeners, let me assure you that if you learn to meditate simply so that you could have a strategy, a technique where twice a day you could sit in a chair and settle down into a nice quiet state, and your body could rest more deeply than sleep, and you could release all of your stresses, that’s still there for you.

We do not need to think of our practice of Vedic Meditation as a grand spiritual evolutionary scheme phenomenon. If all you want is just to release some stress twice every day, Vedic Meditation is absolutely the tool for you. Par excellence. There’s nothing better than it for releasing stress.

However, it is my conjecture and my assertion that a day will come where you’re going to become interested in these other experiences that you’re having as a result of practicing your stress management technique twice a day, where you will start to experience phenomenology during your meditation, and indeed outside of your meditation that beg of you a different theory besides, “Oh, I released my stress this morning and evening.” Something greater than that is bound to happen.

[42:17] Deva Quality in Meditation

And so it is incumbent upon me as a guru of the tradition, of this tradition, to fill you in advance about what those higher levels of experience mean and when the day comes that you experience “The Shining Ones,” the Deva quality.

It’s a quality of experience that is generated by your own consciousness field, and you’re not alone. Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Vedic meditators, since time immemorial, have described such experiences. And you may well be among them describing these experiences when the day comes.

However, it’s very important, as I alluded to earlier, the wise do not bewilder the ignorant. The actual Sanskrit phrase translates directly into English as, wise do not bewilder ignorant.

What does wise do not bewilder ignorant mean? It is a test of wisdom. If you’re bewildering people with your experiences reported by you because they don’t yet have that level of experience or understanding, then you’re not wise. This is what wise do not bewilder ignorant means. It’s a test of your degree of wisdom.

If we wish to pass the test of wisdom, then we don’t want to take a level of knowledge that is too great for the average mind that has not yet had these experiences and risk bewildering people. Because when people become bewildered by experiences that you’ve had, their reaction to you after the bewilderment is not a pleasant one.

[44:16] Let Deva Consciousness Come to You Naturally

And so, let’s keep our description of experiences within a complete context. One of the reasons I like to talk about Deva Consciousness, God Consciousness, with such an exhaustive approach as I’ve just now done, is because any shortcut to describing it leaves out certain details that are very important for people to have if they are indeed to even understand what this can possibly mean.

So, we can take it as it comes as ever, and continue our regular practice of Vedic Meditation twice each day.

We don’t need to be concerned about Deva Consciousness. Whatever is going to come to us spontaneously, naturally, will come. This is just a very good theory, a conceptual delineation, to help us understand, from the Vedic perspective, what those experiences are as they begin to dawn on us through our regular twice-a-day stress management technique of Vedic Meditation.

Jai Guru Deva. 

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