Yogic Psychology; Paradigms of the Mind –Part 3

Chaturtha Avastha – The Four States Of Perception

 

The main source for this teaching is in the Mandukya Upanishad[1], which identifies four states or quarters of perception as being waking Jagat Avastha, dreaming Swapna Avastha, sleeping Shushupti Avastha and an indescribable but ‘knowable’ Transcendental state simply named as ‘fourth’ Chaturtha Avastha or Turiya; it is a state of perception beyond words and nothing else describes it.

The Upanishads are a collection of esoteric Hindu scripture, having little taste for ritual, they expound the metaphysics of non-dualism[2], in which the mind - through the use of the mind - tries to come to grips with the mind, rather like a magnifying glass attempting to examine itself through its own lens… not easy.

 

The First Quarter  - Jagat Avastha – Waking Vaishvanara (Tr. he who has the Universe for his body) so called because “he leads all creatures of the Universe in diverse ways to the enjoyment of various objects”[3]

 

The Waking state with which we are so familiar is perceived through an unreliable collection of senses. Unreliable in that they may or may not be tuned into what is happening - familiar sounds can be ignored while concentrating. In turn the brain may or may not comprehend what it is noticing - a knife is often unrecognisable when viewed end on; the brain may give a faulty interpretation – a black mark seen as a spider! It can only base its judgements on what it has experienced in the past and expects from the future - conditioning. In order to function in the exoteric world – the world in front of our eyes - it is necessary to accept much of this conditioning as absolute fact – however if an individual wishes to become aware of the esoteric world - chittakasha behind the eyes, and to trust the clarity of perceptions gained within the mind-space, then some doubting of the validity of the outer form of ‘reality’ needs to take place.

 

 The Waking state of external cognition enjoys material objects and experiences. It is the world of the perceptual self, outward moving in focus, dominated by the senses, by desire and fear. Most of all, our lives tend to be controlled by fear – for even when we achieve what we desire, we fear that it shall be taken away. It is the state of suffering where all is bound by the laws of cause and effect. This is the normal condition of the natural man who accepts things as he finds them, unquestioning.

 

 It is the world of duality, right/wrong, up/down, inside/outside where things are relative to each other, are compared, defined and described by distinguishing and separating.  “On this planet what is, can only be experienced in terms of relative opposites, night and day, inner outer; on other planets things may well be different, but it is hard to imagine how it could be. There is no such actuality of in / out except in relation to each other do they seem to be so; these are ideas or conditions that we are imbued with as humans – our very life is based on duality – dividing things – one things against something else.”[4]

 

 

It is described as having seven limbs and nineteen mouths[5].

It is represented by the letter A in the mantra AUM, which is the sound symbol for insentient Nature, the primal energy Prakriti.

 

 

 

The second Quarter – Swapna Avastha - Dreaming Taijasa (the splendour of impressions)

The Dreaming state is also familiar; though there are those who claim not to be able to recall their dreams; even so, it is probable that they do dream. There are many theories as to what dreams are and how they can be understood, but it can be agreed that they contain a distorted version of the experiences and conditioning of the personality. Dreams and the dreaming state can be dismissed and disowned. The rational mind generally chooses to relate to what it can comprehend and to reject the balance as irrelevant, however this ‘mental detritus’ remains snagged within the web of emotional reactions.  “Any reaction to any situation – external or internal - waking or dreaming  - that is rooted in grasping or aversion, leaves a trace in the mind.”[6] Dreams could be regarded as a window into these unresolved impressions that our waking experience has left ‘on hold’ within the mental space[7].  The purpose of this Yogic paradigm of the mind is to develop awareness of action in action while waking and to develop some examination of the state of Dreaming leading to the higher states of awareness. “Many Westerners who approach these teachings [the Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep], do so with ideas about dream based in psychological theory; subsequently, when they become more interested in using dream in their spiritual life, they usually focus on the content and meaning of dreams. Rarely is the nature of dreaming itself investigated. When it is, the investigation leads to the mysterious processes that underlie the whole of our existence, not only our dreaming life… There is nothing more real than dream… Dream Yoga applies to all experience - to the dreams of the day as well as the dreams of the night. ”[8]

In this dream state, the internal senses explore emotional and mental impressions, the fallout of waking experience. This imagined world retains duality; the subtle dream objects are perceived through the inward focus, though the experience can seem convincingly external – one can fully believe oneself to be drowning while perfectly dry tucked up in the bed. There is a great freedom in the imaginative dream-world, which though made of the same stuff, is not bound by the same laws, this seems quite reasonable and not at all surprising at the time. Frights, horrors and oppression or pleasurable delights are all generated within the dreaming mind. Interestingly there is great variety in the quality of Dream. While some people dream in black and white, others in colour, some can see, hear, smell and even taste in their dreams though this last is most unusual: some see in two dimensions others in three, even holographically. 

 

It also has seven limbs and nineteen mouths

It is the letter U in AUM. 

 

 

 

The Third Quarter – Shushupti Avastha – Deep sleep Prajna (liberating intuitive knowledge)

Familiar again, the state of Dreamless Sleep is wonderful, the deep rest of a good nights oblivion where the sense of ‘I’ has been lost for hours at a stretch without any awareness or concern; most of us expect to experience it without question and find it hard to imagine the torment for those for whom the knack of deep sleep seems to have become elusive. It may seem that very little happens in this state – least of all any perception! And yet perhaps there is the presence of Divine Paradox at work: what seems insignificant is massive - what seems impressive, has no presence at all: what seems to have all the power has none - what seems to be totally inconsequential is greater than can be imagined. The first step is to accept that this may be so.

 

Deep sleep, Prajna, can be seen as annihilation[9], or as unity of cognition, as bliss where the consciousness rests in deep peace, neither hindered by internal nor external perception, neither by thought, desire nor fear. Perhaps both are true depending on the evolution of the individual; the mind may rest in Ignorance or in Truth[10]. In any event the rest will always be transitory, wakefulness will return. In Deep Sleep, awareness of the person, of the empirical world, of variety, all cease. Yet the sages believed that Prajna, liberating knowledge – pure intuitive wisdom – remains. Though there is no objective consciousness in Prajna, the Thinker and a Thought are retained - the unmanifested Karmic seed is present; as yet, it is conditioned by Cause alone. This is a significant distinction between the third and fourth states of perception. Latent karmas and samskaras lie within this third state, deep in the awarenss of the Thinker but not accessible to the personality. Original thought arises in Prajna, that intuitive ah-ha moment on waking when genius ‘knows’ the solution and needs to work back to the question / equation / theory. Deep Sleep exists in between time, space and duality.

In this Prajna the fourth quarter – Turiya – Absolute Reality in Unity becomes the subject, confronting the as yet unmanifested[11] object.

 

This is the letter M in AUM.

 

 

 

The Fourth Quarter – Chaturtha Avastha – Turiya (fourth)

 Turiya is normally unknown and unreachable for most mortals; it is said that those that can speak of it have never known it and those that have known it cannot speak of it: in essence, words are too limiting to be used with respect to the Transcendental. Turiya is the power of the unuttered word, the power of creation itself[12], symbolised by AUM. In his commentary on Mandukya, the sage Gaudapada describes it as the ‘intangible Yoga’ asparsha-yoga (tr. that which is free from touch or contact), that which is not contaminated by contact with exoteric existence[13]. 

 

As long as the individual is confused by the oh-so-convincing information gathered by the senses, there will be misunderstanding and misinterpretation, as the rational mind divides the seamless unity of experience into conceptual entities then files them according to the correlation of memory on memory. This conceptual mind causes so much anxiety while simultaneously conditioning the senses into dullness, into loss of the fresh vitality of awareness. A primary dualism commences soon after birth, which distinguishes between self and not-self, thereafter flows the life-long woe of grasping-desire or aversion, as memory recalls pleasure or pain. Unifying all mystical schools is some provision of training through which the individual can begin to extricate from the habitual and approach non-dual vision. Occasionally one can read of conversations with teachers who live in such a place[14] - extraordinary. The Paths are many; earnestness is all that is needed.

 

The Fourth is the unthinkable, the unnameable – the non-dual – the Self  - simultaneously transcending the previous three while embodying them - one of the four quarters yet the entirety of the whole – Satchidananda truth-consciousness-bliss. This is not atheism nor anti-theism but super-theism[15] - the pure-being, inner-guide, that can be neither tarnished nor polluted, present at all times in all people, perhaps in all sentient beings.

 

In both Prajna and Turiya there is no objective consciousness, in Turiya even the seed is absent – within Turiya there are no interruptions, not altercations, no change, no cause and no effect.

Since it is quite impossible to set any object in opposition to Turiya it is a self –validating, self-authenticating experience. There is knowledge of identity by possession, by absorption at the deepest levels; those who know the truth become the truth[16].

 

 

 

Appendix 1

Mandukya Upanishad.

1. AUM stands for the supreme reality. It is a symbol for what was, what is and what shall be AUM represents also what lies beyond past present and future.

2. Brahman is all, and the Self is Brahman. This Self has four states of consciousness.

3. The first is called Vaishvanara, in which one lives with all the senses turned outward, aware only of the external world. 

4. Taijasa is the name of the second, the dreaming state in which, with the senses turned inward, one enacts impressions of past deeds and present desires.  

5. The third states is called Prajna, of deep sleep, in which one neither dreams nor desires. There is no mind in Prajna, there is no separateness; but the sleeper is not conscious of this. Let him become conscious in Prajna and it will open the door to the state of abiding joy.

6. Prajna, all-powerful and all-knowing dwells in the hearts of all as the ruler. Prajna is the source and end of all.

7. The fourth is the super-conscious state called Turiya, neither inwards nor outward, beyond the senses and the intellect, in which there is none other than the Lord. He is the supreme goal of life. He is infinite peace and love. Realise him!

8. Turiya is represented by AUM. Though indivisible, it has three sounds.

9. A stands for Vaishvanara. Those who know this, through mastery of the senses, obtain the fruit of their desires and obtain greatness.

10. U indicates Taijasa. Those who know this by mastering even their dreams, become established in wisdom. In their family everyone leads a spiritual life.

11. M corresponds to Prajna. Those who know this, by stilling the mind, find their true stature and inspire everyone around to grow.

12. The mantram AUM stands for the supreme state of Turiya, without parts, beyond birth and death, the symbol of everlasting joy. Those who know AUM as the self become the Self; truly they become the Self. U p.57

 

 

References: -

 

U

The Upanishads Eknath Eswaran

ISBN 9 780915 132393

KCU

The Key to the Centre of the Universe Herman Kuhn

ISBN 398062118 9

YT

The Yoga Tradition Georg Feuerstein

ISBN 0934252 831

VUBG

Commentaries on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita Sri Chinmoy

AUM Pub.

TYDS

The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

ISBN 1 55939 101 4

N

I Am That  Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

ISBN 0 89386 022 0

PU

The Principal Upanishads Sri Radhakrishnan

ISBN 81 7223 124 5

 



[1] U p.57 Tr. Eknath Eswaran; - Mandukya Upanishad see appendix 1

[2] YT p.610

[3] PU p.695ff

[4] Swami Nishalananda Saraswati Satsang at Mandala Yoga Ashram, Wales

[5] Consisting of 5 sense organs – hearing, touch, small, sight, taste; 5 organs of action – speech, handling, locomotion, generation, excretion; five vital breaths; 4 sates of mind - the mind Manas, the intellect Buddhi, the self-sense Ahamkara, and thought Chitta

[6] TYDS p.28

[7] “Contrary to common belief most experiences of expansion of consciousness are hardly ever clear and vivid enough to make us recognise them the very moment they happen. Most insights into different (new) levels of consciousness are so brief that they appear like highly fleeting, almost unreal apparitions. Since we mostly cannot explain what we experienced, we usually store these events in the same place as all the other unresolved experiences that accompany our life and which we choose to ignore or forget as well.

“Hidden deep inside our memory we therefore carry a number of experiences we are barely aware of, but which nevertheless contain vital information how higher, more advanced states of existence feel like.”

Simultaneously with every insight into the higher functions of our consciousness, we also receive the ability to fully comprehend our experience. This happens automatically, no matter if we are aware of it at the moment of insight or not. Experience and understanding are just two different aspects of the same event.

“Misinterpretation, prejudice, ignorance, doubt and social consensus usually prevent us from understanding and utilising these expansive experiences. Yet when we allow our intuitive orientation towards growth to guide this process, these obstructive factors are automatically filtered out. This kind of flawless intuitive insight makes us intuitively sense how every information we receive will influence our progress. It gives us the choice to accept and amplify only those impulses that positively lead us to more advanced stages of development.” KCU p.21ff 23

[8] TYDS 23

[9] PU p.507 Chandogya Upanishad 11:1”When a man is asleep, composed, serene and knows no dream that is the self, said he, that is the immortal, the fearless. That is Brahman. Then he went forth with tranquil heart. Evan before reaching the gods he saw this danger. In truth this one does not know himself that ‘I am he’ nor indeed the things here. He has become one who has gone to annihilation. I see no good in this.”

[10] Psalm 128 v.2 God gives truth to his beloved in sleep

[11] PU p.702

[12] U p 59

[13] YT p. 278

[14] N p. 320 “The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Soon he discovers that his own body he cannot be. Once the conviction ’I am not the body’ becomes so well grounded that he can no longer feel, think and act for and on behalf of the body, he will easily discover that he is the universal being, knowing, acting, that in him and through him the entire universe is real, conscious and active. This is the heart of the problem. Either you are body conscious and a slave of circumstances, or you are the universal consciousness itself – and in full control of every event.”

[15] PU p.699

[16] PU p. 702