“The confluence of knowledge, understanding and practice makes life complete.”
We lead life through three states of consciousness – waking, dreaming and sleeping. In the waking state of consciousness, we experience the world through the five senses – sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. We seek elevation and joy from these senses.
For instance, we only want to look at something that is a source of joy, not at something that is likely to sadden us. If any one of the senses is missing, the entire dimension of that sense is lost. One who can’t hear is bereft of the whole arena of sound. Similarly, he who can’t see is deprived of all the beautiful sights and colors. So the sense is more important and much bigger than the object of the sense. Each sense has a limited capacity to enjoy – after all, how much can one see, hear or touch? However beautiful a sight, one cannot keep looking at it. The senses get tired after a short period of time. The eyes close and we want to go back into ourselves because every experience is an expense of energy.
The mind is rated higher than the sense. The mind is infinite; its desires are many. But the capacity of the senses to enjoy is small. This imbalance in the system will remain. Greed is wanting more and more sensory objects. Though a person can eat only so much, he wants all the chocolates in the world; though the amount (of money) that can be spent by an individual during a lifetime is limited, he wants all the wealth in the world. This is greed. This is what is prevalent in the world today.
Giving too much importance to sensory objects leads to greed and lust. Giving too much importance to the mind and its desires leads to delusion. We hold on to the concepts of the mind and want things to happen in a certain way. Thus, the concepts in our mind impede us from perceiving the infinite consciousness that is a part of us.
I’m not saying that the senses or the mind are bad. But we must learn to discriminate between things and be aware of what is happening at all times. That is when clarity dawns on us. This is the first step towards the higher state of consciousness.
The fourth (or the higher) state of consciousness is somewhere in between the waking, sleeping and dreaming states; wherein we know “we are” but we don’t know “where” we are. This knowledge that I “am” but I don’t know “where” I am or “what” I am is called “Shiva.” This state gives the deepest possible rest that one can experience. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful.
In the waking state, one is constantly engaged in looking, smelling, eating and other activities. The other extreme is the sleeping state where one is completely cut off and dull. The dullness and heaviness linger even after waking up. The more one sleeps, the duller one feels since a lot of energy is expended in sleep. Hence, the fourth state, where we are awake and yet at complete rest, is worth knowing. We enter this state only during meditation.
Meditation is like a seed. The better a seed is cultivated, the more it flourishes. Similarly, the more we practice meditation, the better it cultures the entire nervous system and the body. Our physiology undergoes a change and every cell in the body is filled with “prana.” As the level of “prana” in the body rises, we bubble with joy.
The culturing of meditation into our system is normal. Some people call it the higher state of consciousness. I call it the normal state of consciousness since we are endowed with the ability to live in that state. Meditation helps in two ways – it prevents stress from getting into the system and simultaneously helps release already accumulated stress.
Regular meditation also leads to happiness and fulfillment, to sensitization of the sensory organs (thereby intensifying the experiences of seeing, tasting, feeling, etc.), and to greater intuitiveness.
With the assimilation of meditation into daily life, the fifth state of consciousness, called cosmic consciousness, dawns. Cosmic consciousness is perception of the whole cosmos as part of oneself. When we perceive the world as a part of us, love flows strongly between the world and us. (Love again is not an emotion but a state of being. It is not a melodrama expressed by endearments but our very existence.) This love empowers us to bear the opposing forces and the disturbances in our lives. Anger and disappointments become fleeting emotions that occur momentarily and then vanish.
The confluence of knowledge, understanding and practice makes life complete. When you grow into higher states of consciousness, you find that you are no longer thrown off balance by different situations and disturbances. You become beautiful yet strong – a soft, delicate and beautiful blossom capable of accommodating different values in life without any conditions.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a world-renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader, is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, an international non-profit that works to strengthen society by strengthening individuals. Sri Sri’s programs of trauma relief, conflict resolution, self-development, education, women’s empowerment, vocational training and revival of human values have benefited an estimated 300 million persons in more than 145 countries. srisriravishankar.org