Navadwip, West Bengal, India — Friday, March 31st

Journey into consciousness

What is Krishna consciousness?

Krishna consciousness is a revolution of consciousness: the total transformation of our consciousness from the mundane to the supramundane, from the self to the super-self, from illusion to reality. Krishna is the Supreme Personality: God Himself, in Person. He is the Supreme Absolute Truth: Reality the Beautiful. Krishna consciousness is the search for that truth, the search for that reality.

The search for reality begins with the search for the self. Even if we adopt the position of extreme skeptics and doubt the existence of everything — including our own existence! — we must admit that the very fact that we doubt, is proof that we, the doubters, exist. As Descartes famously declared: "I think, therefore I am." So the search for reality must begin with what we know to be real: ourselves.

But who are we? Are we our bodies? Are we our minds? Or are we something more?

In the Bhagavad Gita (3:42) Krishna informs Arjuna that the search for the self is an internal journey, a voyage of self-discovery that will take us from the gross matter of this world to sensory perception, then inward, past the subtle material mind, beyond the even finer intellect, to the plane of self-awareness, or consciousness:

indriyani parany ahur / indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir / yo buddheh paratas tu sah

"The senses are superior to dead matter (indriyani parany), the mind is superior to the active senses (indriyebhyah param manah), intelligence, or reason, is superior to the subtle mind (manasas tu para buddhir), and superior to even the finer, more subtle intellect, is the soul: the self, or consciousness itself (yo buddheh paratas tu sah)."

In other words, it is consciousness that allows us to experience matter. Our interaction with this temporary world of matter is dependent on the senses, the mind, and the intelligence which, because they are material, are inferior to, or dependent upon, the spirit soul, or consciousness. Without consciousness, no experience of this world is possible: for all practical purposes, it does not exist.

The search for reality must therefore take us into the internal, living world of consciousness, not into the external, dead world of matter. Consciousness is the basis of reality: without consciousness, we can have no physical, mental, or intellectual experience of anything. The search for reality is thus an inward journey, a voyage of self-discovery, an exploration of the realm of consciousness.

In his unparalleled exposition of the brahma-gayatri mantra, the great explorer of consciousness, Srila Sridhar Maharaj retraces the steps that resulted in our fall from grace. He shows that bhur, bhuva, and sva refer not to planetary systems within this external universe of matter, but to different levels of thought or development within the internal universe of consciousness, and that savitur is not the light of the sun that reveals the external world to us, but the light of the soul that reveals the true nature of the self (consciousness).

We have come to our present unfortunate position in this temporary material world (bhur) as a result of the previous desires cultivated and nurtured within our minds (bhuva). Because we made the wrong choice, because we misused our reason or intelligence (sva), our consciousness (savitur) is now absorbed in trying to vicariously enjoy the lifeless objects of this mortal world.

Consciousness presupposes free will; without free will no consciousness can be conceived. Through misuse of our free will, the bright light of the soul has become overshadowed by matter (maya), and plunged into a world of such darkness that its feeble light can now barely be discerned.

When we try to find our place in the universe, we realize that we are not only hopelessly lost, but clueless! We think up is down and down is up; we think this illusory material world is real and the real spiritual world is illusory; we think matter is immortal (because it does not exhibit the symptoms of death) and we are mortal (because our bodies appear to die). How can we find our way back home, back to where we belong?

In the Bhagavad Gita (2:16) Krishna tells Arjuna:

nasato vidyate bhavo / nabhavo vidyate satah
ubhayor api drsto 'ntas / tv anayos tattva-darsibhih

"That which is real (spirit) is eternal (nabhavo vidyate satah) while that which is unreal (material) is temporary (nasato vidyate bhavo). The great 'explorers of consciousness,' the enlightened 'seers of the truth' (tattva-darsibhih) have reached this conclusion (antas) after studying the nature of both consciousness and matter (ubhayor api drsto)."

This material world is a perverted reflection of reality: it is temporary and illusory. When we explore the external universe, we find nothing but dead matter: a graveyard of ideas. The environment appears to be animated — filled with life — only because consciousness is present: without consciousness, everything is life-less.

Consciousness is not a product of the world; the world is a product of consciousness. Reality is not found in the external, objective world of sense perception, but in the internal, subjective world of consciousness: the material environment is merely a concept within consciousness.

So the journey back home, back to the real world — the search for reality — is not a journey outwards and upwards, through higher and higher planetary systems within this material universe, but a journey inwards and deeper, through more and more subtle planes of consciousness within ourselves.

Consciousness can know, or conceive of itself just as the body can know, or feel itself. In Home Comfort, the preeminent seer of the truth, Srila Sridhar Maharaj says, "The soul can see itself, it can focus upon itself, and through introspection, realize its very nature."

Only consciousness is real. When Srila Sridhar Maharaj says, "Dive deep into reality," he is referring to consciousness. We must dive deep into our own consciousness — through introspection, through self-analysis — to discover our real potential, our real wealth, our real selves:

O, you sons of nectar! O, you sons of the nectarine ocean sea!
Please listen to me.
You were born in nectar; you were born to taste nectar:
Do not allow yourselves to be satisfied by anything but nectar!

Awake! Arise! Search for that nectar!
The object of your inner search exists.
It is the wealth of your own soul: it cannot but be within you.
Search for Sri Krishna: Reality the Beautiful.

— From Search for Sri Krishna: Reality the Beautiful

Tags: Search for Reality | Slokas

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Layout by iMonk — March 31st, 2006.