What is Consciousness?

“If you wish to be a master of consciousness, you have to know how to step beyond thought, and to step beyond thought is a ridiculously simple proposition. You learn Vedic Meditation…”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

What is consciousness? Well, the ultimate answer to this question is, ‘everything,’ but, ironically, our ability to understand this depends on our own level of consciousness.

In other words, our ability to truly understand what consciousness is, relies on consciousness itself and our experience of it. And by the time we get to the point where we actually understand the answer to the question, the question becomes irrelevant.

The good news is, we have a simple technique at our disposal, Vedic Meditation, which gives us an experience of Pure Consciousness on a regular basis. And even though we may struggle to find the words to define what consciousness is, we at least have a reference point to develop our own understanding of what it truly is.

Combine that reference point with Thom’s wisdom in this episode, and you’ll be well on the way to answering the question yourself.

Bookmark this episode and come back to it on a regular basis, at least until you’ve answered the question for yourself.

Subscribe to Vedic Worldview

Apple Podcast logo
Stitcher Podcast logo
Spotify Podcast logo
Google Podcast logo

Episode Highlights


The Fundamental Existential Truth of the Known Universe



The State of Three-In-One



What Relevance Would the Universe Have If Consciousness Didn’t Exist?



Friday Night at UCLA



Expanding and Contracting Our Consciousness



Isolating Consciousness Through Vedic Meditation



Pure Consciousness in its Absolute Form



Repertoire of Capability



A Ridiculously Simple Proposition


Jai Guru Deva


What is Consciousness?

[00:00:45] The Fundamental Existential Truth of the Known Universe

[00:00:45] I’m often asked by people, “You use the word consciousness so much, what is consciousness actually?” Well, it would be a little bit like trying to ask what is electricity or what is fire?

[00:01:05] Consciousness is, in fact, both according to the most successful science of the modern era, quantum mechanics, and, according to Vedic science, consciousness is the fundamental existential truth of the known Universe.

[00:01:32] The State of Three-In-One

[00:01:32] Consciousness is Being that is aware of itself. Consciousness is the fundamental capability to Know, to have means of getting knowledge, Knowing, and to form a view about that which exists. That is to say, the Known.

[00:02:04] In its most fundamental state, consciousness is the Knower. Consciousness is the process of Knowing. Consciousness is that which is Known. There is a baseline of consciousness, or Being, a transcendental, that means beyond all relativity, a transcendental absolute state in which consciousness is the Knower, consciousness is the means of gaining knowledge, the Knowing, consciousness is the Known.

[00:02:38] This state of three-in-one is consciousness in its most fundamental form. In that fundamental form, quantum mechanics tells us that there is not yet such a thing as a form or a phenomenon. There are no particles, and there are no phenomena. There are no forces.

[00:03:05] We live in a universe that is a response to conscious intentionality and inquiry. Consciousness is the basis on which the physical universe comes into being.

[00:03:19] So the physical universe, all of its forms, all of its phenomenon, all of its individualities, all of its traits, all of its movements, all of its creation, all of its maintenance, its dissolution, disintegration or destruction, coming back onto creation, coming back onto maintenance, cyclically like that, all of this comes out of, and issues forth from, that fundamental field of consciousness.

[00:03:51] What Relevance Would the Universe Have If Consciousness Didn’t Exist?

[00:03:51] The consciousness is basically the thing that makes relevant the existence of the universe. Contemplate this for a moment. Supposing the entire physical universe as we know it, existed but nothing in it was conscious. What relevance would it have?

[00:04:17] If there was no consciousness whatsoever, but the universe itself, as we know it, the planets, suns, moons, solar systems, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, all of that, black holes, everything that we know exists, what relevance would it have, that it existed, if consciousness did not exist?

[00:04:43] Well, it would have no relevance. This is the answer to the rhetorical question. It would have no relevance. So, consciousness is that which makes existence relevant. Without consciousness, there is no relevance in existence. Now, we’re getting into something deeply philosophical, but I think you can see where I’m going.

[00:05:07] Consciousness is a thing that we can have in certain grades. More consciousness means you can fit a larger number of items into one awareness. A larger number of items can be in one awareness. The capability to be aware of a larger number of forms and phenomena is associated with having a greater amount of consciousness.

[00:05:38] Friday Night at UCLA

[00:05:38] So, for example, if a person is, let’s say, an English major at UCLA. And the English major decides on a Friday night to go out and become inebriated with their favorite drink, Johnny Walker, and, having a fifth of a gallon of Johnny Walker in their gut, they decide to go for a walk in the park. Hopefully, they’re not going to try to drive a car or anything.

[00:06:09] Now, we take this English major from UCLA and, in our hypothesis, ask them lots of questions prior to them imbibing the whiskey. They’ll have a certain amount of consciousness, be aware of a certain number of things, and have a certain repertoire of capabilities that are associated with that consciousness.

[00:06:33] Pop the Johnny Walker into them, and the next thing, you know, that, which they know has become far less, that which they can become aware of has become far less, and their repertoire of behaviors has become gravely restricted.

[00:06:51] Expanding and Contracting Our Consciousness

[00:06:51] So, consciousness is a thing which, if it is modulated, that means made greater, then there’s greater capability associated with it. Consciousness made thinner or lesser or lower, less expansive, then there is lesser capability associated with that.

[00:07:17] We, all of us, have a variety of consciousness states through which we move on a daily basis. Sometimes more capable, sometimes less capable.

[00:07:29] You’ve had a great night’s sleep. You wake up in the morning. You’re feeling fresh. Then you have more consciousness at your disposal.

[00:07:38] Isolating Consciousness Through Vedic Meditation

[00:07:38] At the end of a long day, let’s give it a 15-hour day, of working, of meeting demands, of meeting changes of expectation, of dealing with things, of having to be adaptive, you feel tired and ready for your horizontal rest of the night, then you’re going to be less conscious at that time, and your repertoire of capabilities is greatly decreased.

[00:08:09] And so, we know that a rested physiology, a rested mind, has more consciousness and therefore greater capability, a larger repertoire of creativity, intelligence, and staying power. And lesser consciousness, less of all of those things.

[00:08:28] In Vedic Meditation, we have a technique whereby we can isolate consciousness by taking the active mind beyond its fascination with particulate thoughts. “This is not done. That’s not done. I have to go here. I have to go there. I have to remember this. I’ve to remember that. I better do this, I better do that. I better speak these words in response to these questions and whatnot.

[00:08:53] “And I have to be careful in how I speak, and I have to think about my social relevance, and I have to wonder what I’m wearing. And I have to wonder if I’m going to eat and so on and so forth,” all of that fascination with particular thinking.

[00:09:06] Pure Consciousness in its Absolute Form

[00:09:06] We close our eyes. We practice an effortless, simple, mental technique, Vedic Meditation. We settle down into less active thought states until the state of least excitation of the mind is reached, transcending which, that means stepping beyond that, we experience consciousness isolated in its pure state.

[00:09:33] When the mind merges with that one, indivisible, whole, unbounded consciousness field that is sitting there at the baseline of one’s active awareness, but now we’ve gone, as it were, to the bottom of the lake, and we’re experiencing the one, indivisible, whole, consciousness field without thought.

[00:09:54] The mind is experiencing consciousness knowing itself.

[00:09:58] Coming out from that, not only has deep physiological rest been gained in the body during that process, but the mind has had imprinted onto it, that quality of Pure Consciousness.

[00:10:14] Pure Consciousness in its absolute form is a field of all possibilities. The repertoire of behaviors that can emerge from that, the repertoire capabilities grows dramatically.

[00:10:29] Repertoire of Capability

[00:10:29] And so, now we can start associating consciousness with repertoire of capability. We know that a flea is consciousness. A flea will move away from too much heat, or too much cold. A flea will move in the direction of a good bite, where it can get some blood from a mammal. A flea has reproductive urges and so on.

[00:10:52] A flea has some kind of familial consciousness and has certain biological imperatives, but a flea, presumably, has access to less consciousness than the average human. And so there’s flea consciousness, and then there’s average human consciousness. So, which of these two consciousnesses has, as a consequence of greater or lesser consciousness, has greater or lesser capability?

[00:11:24] The answer, human. Human has the greater capability than the flea. Greater repertoire of capabilities, greater repertoire of behaviors, greater repertoire of experiences, and as it turns out, greater longevity too.

[00:11:43] And so then, when we talk about consciousness, we’re always talking about repertoire that comes out of consciousness. The capabilities, the behavioral orientation, the variety of experiences that can be had, and indeed, we want to go one more step, the variety of ways in which these experiences can be communicated.

[00:12:09] A Ridiculously Simple Proposition

[00:12:09] Consciousness, it’s a very, very interesting topic. If you wish to be a master of consciousness, you have to know how to step beyond thought, and to step beyond thought is a ridiculously simple proposition.

[00:12:23] You learn Vedic Meditation, close your eyes and, within a few minutes, you can isolate that field of consciousness, and allow your individual mind to bathe in that thought-free, full-repertoire, infinite-possibilities field, which lies there at the baseline of your thinking, the source of all your thoughts.

[00:12:48] Jai Guru Deva.

Read more